PROCESSING OF ALGIKNIT FIBRES IN TEXTILE INDUSTRIES

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Climate change affects everyone – and the textile industry is not immune. Biomaterials research group AlgiKnit, is doing its bit for the environment by aiming to create a biomaterial alternative that serves as a replacement for everyday, man-made textiles such as polyester. Their goal is to keep fashion products from filling landfills and causing microplastic pollution. Their goal is to create a sustainable BioYarn that can quickly biodegrade after its use-life is over and can be recycled through the earth’s biological systems. Chiefly, they are using alginate, a biopolymer derived from kelp, to do this. The seaweed is “rapidly replenishable and one of the fastest growing organisms in the world”. The company is currently analysing its properties to see if the fibre is strong and flexible enough to be knitted on an industrial power machine.

The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters on the planet. It is also a $1.2 trillion global industry, with more than $250 billion spent annually on fashion in the United States alone, according to industry analysts.AlgiKnit’s investors include RebelBio and SOSV, although the total investment amount is undisclosed. In 2017, AlgiKnit beat 2,800 submissions to win National Geographic’s Chasing Genius award in the Sustainable Planet category, receiving the $25,000 prize along with three other ventures.

The goal of AlgiKnit is to eventually replace petroleum-based materials and become a go-to zero waste fabric suitable for clothing and footwear.AlgiKnit Inc. is a biomaterials company integrating science and design into textile production. Addressing the ecological damage caused by the fashion industry, AlgiKnit is creating durable yet rapidly degradable yarns.

They aim to operate in a closed loop product lifecycle, utilizing materials with a significantly lower environmental footprint than conventional textiles, to bring sustainable bio-based textile alternatives to the footwear and apparel industries.

What’s so great about algae? It grows 10 times more rapidly than terrestrial plants, and less than a tenth of the land is needed to produce an equivalent amount of biomass. It grows on non-productive and non-arable land, so it doesn’t compete with other crops for land. Because it doesn’t require fresh water, it can be fertilized more efficiently than land crops, and you can avoid the intensive water usage, wasteful fertilizer runoff, and downstream eutrophication associated with modern agriculture.

In view of resources dwindling fast and natural fibres like cotton being resource-intensive to process and petroleum-based fibres like acrylic, polyester, nylon and spandex not being the most environmentally friendly, it is about time to look for sustainable alternatives when producing fibres and fabrics. In this series, FashionUnited explores the sustainable alternatives and textile innovations that are currently being pursued all over the world.

New York-based AlgiKnit is a biomaterials research company that has developed a compostable yarn from readily abundant biopolymers that can be formed into wearable textiles. In other words, AlgiKnit makes a bio yarn from kelp, seaweed or algae via the readily abundant biopolymer ‘alginate’.Bio yarn is renewable, closed-loop and good for the environment

AlgiKnit develops biomaterials from the most renewable and fasted growing organisms on earth – kelp, laminaria digitata to be precise, a large brown alga also known as oarweed. It grows up to 10 times faster than bamboo and is grown in aquatic farms around the world in coastal communities, often by fishermen and women, thus providing income for them during off-season.

Kelp in coastal waters also absorbs nutrients from agricultural and sewer run-off that can alter coastal environments. This recaptures nutrients for the next generation of biomaterials and thus improves the environment. Kelp is thus an ideal material for the future of sustainable manufacturing.

From kelp, AlgiKnit extracts alginate and combines it with other renewable biopolymers to produce yarn, which is strong enough and stretchable enough to be knitted by hand or by machine to be used in textile manufacturing. The final product can be dyed with natural pigments.

“They use an extrusion process to turn the biopolymer mixture into a filament. They extrude the mixture into a salt bath that cures the bio yarn”, explains AlgiKnit. But that is not all, to minimise waste, all products are knit to shape. This technique allows AlgiKnit to produce products with little to no waste.

And when the textile’s life cycle comes to an end? No problem – it can be reused. “When it’s worn out or you don’t want it, it can be broken down by microorganism and the nutrients reclaimed to feed the next generation of product,” says AlgiKnit co-founder Aleksandra Gosiewski when speaking to Creative Bloq. “I envision a future where the materials we use can be transformed to feed the next generation of products.”

2018 has already been an exciting year for AlgiKnit: The early stage biomaterials startup is participating in the 2018 RebelBio Accelerator program in London. Their participation is part of a 100,000 US dollar investment deal through RebelBio and their parent company SOSV. The company has also been chosen as one of the 15 start-ups that will take part in Fashion for Good’s Plug and Play accelerator initiative.

AlgiKnit was founded by Tessa Callaghan, Aaron Nesser, Aleksandra Gosiewski, Theanne Schiros and Asta Skocir and grew out of BioEsters, the winning team from the 2016 BioDesign Challenge. AlgiKnit is continuing to pursue a material-driven design approach to biopolymer-based materials with generous support from the Fashion Institute of Technology. It is also supported by the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC), National Geographic and start-up accelerator RebelBio.

Kelp is one of the fastest growing organisms on earth and is readily available worldwide. By creating knit yarn from kelp (Laminaria Digitata) Algiknit aims to build a sustainable biodegradable fiber alternative to today’s domineering petrochemical textiles.

AlgiKnit grew out of BioEsters; the first national winning team of the 2016 Biodesign Challenge. The Algiknit team, is a collaboration between scientists and designers, with a nature-inspired approach to the exploration of divergent ways to design a new set of materials that operate within a sustainable framework, respecting planetary boundaries limits and a social justice foundation.

AlgiKnit is the brand name. The name was inspired by the first BioYarn they created using bioplymers derived from kelp, the yarn which we then knit into a textile.

As designers they wanted to put this fiber into the realm of their expertise, textiles. Textiles are comprised of two major material structures: wovens and knits. They chose knitwear because this was their area of expertise and also an area that has not been widely explored in BioMaterials world. Knits are comprised of a series of interlocking loops, and because of this, knitting lends itself to a great deal of stretch, flexibility and strength not found wovens; properties they felt would benefit their  biomaterial.

As consumers living in a wasteful, “throw-away” society, they purchase far more clothing than they need. As a result, they are not wearing their clothing until it degrades; most clothing is discarded because it is no longer useful. RealReal’s founder and CEO Julie Wainwright states that, “more than 80 billion pieces of clothing are produced worldwide every year, with 75% percent ending up in landfills.” In a world where consumption continues to increase, and with retailers feeding into this fast fashion model, they wanted to create textiles that are non-toxic, non-hazardous, and are a compostable alternative to petrochemical textiles.

By using rapidly replenishing organisms like alginate, and traditional processing and manufacturing methods, they aim to develop products which biodegrade at the end of their useful life to provide nutrients for the next generation of materials.

The American start-up AlgiKnit makes fibers from kelp that can be spun into yarn. AlgiKnit offers a solution that could transform the highly polluting textile industry into a circular economy by using biomaterials. After having been used, this seaweed textile can serve as compost or animal feed. It also reduces the carbon footprint of the clothing industry, because no harmful fiber particles are lost during washing, such as is the case with polyester. The company is working on a prototype of a T-shirt and sneakers will be next.

The American start-up AlgiKnit makes fibers from kelp that can be spun into yarn. AlgiKnit offers a solution that could transform the highly polluting textile industry into a circular economy by using biomaterials. After having been used, this seaweed textile can serve as compost or animal feed. It also reduces the carbon footprint of the clothing industry, because no harmful fiber particles are lost during washing, such as is the case with polyester. The company is working on a prototype of a T-shirt and sneakers will be next.

Dr.N.N. MAHAPATRA

C.Col  FSDC ( UK),CText FTI ( Manchester ),

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