MSE graduate student is part of a team developing the world’s smallest wearable gel pack for menstrual pain relief.

Charlie Katrycz, a Ph.D. student in Materials Science under the supervision of Prof. Glenn Hibbard and Prof. Ben Hatton, is using novel air-casting technology to create wearable gel packs for menstrual pain relief.

As part of his PhD studies, Charlie is researching growth patterns in materials. His work explores the controllability of branched growth patterns in abiotic and biological media. He is interested in using these branched tree-like growth patterns to introduce biomimetic structures into materials. His work in air-casting tree-shapes demonstrates the utility of exploring and controlling these growths in silicone rubber.

Charlie first discovered that fluids could spontaneously create fractals that looked just like tree roots and branches while he was an undergraduate physics student. He wondered why manufacturing methods never make use of such a remarkable effect, even though biology does so ubiquitously. Charlie’s research turned into a collaboration with Graham McLaughlin, which eventually resulted in placing in the semifinals of The Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable (2015), and a patented process (Katrycz 2019).

Last year, architectural designer Katherine Porter and community organizer and educator Robin Linton set out to find a better solution to manage menstrual pain. Empowered by the empirical information of their survey and their vocational experience in inclusive product design, they began collaborating on the project that eventually turned an inventive process into an innovative solution. The result is a structured, ultra-soft gel packet designed to be worn directly on the body to provide heat and relieve menstrual pain.