Creating fashion from slaughterhouse waste

Monday, 03 August, 2015

Creating fashion from slaughterhouse waste

It’s not quite a silk purse from a sow’s ear, but a Swiss PhD student has developed a method for obtaining high-quality fibres from a by-product of slaughterhouse waste.

The method to create fibres from gelatine was developed by Philipp Stössel, a PhD student in Professor Wendelin Stark’s Functional Materials Laboratory in Zurich, in cooperation with Empa’s Advanced Fibers Laboratory in St. Gallen. Stössel has presented the method in an article for the journal Biomacromolecules.

The individual gelatine fibres created by Stössel have a diameter of only 25 µm — roughly half the thickness of a human hair. Whereas natural wool fibres have tiny scales, the surface of the gelatine fibres is smooth. “As a result, they have an attractive lustre,” Stössel says. The interior of the fibres is also filled with cavities, which may account for the gelatine yarn’s good insulation.

Gelatine’s major drawback is its water solubility, so Stössel had to improve the water resistance of the gelatine yarn through various chemical processing stages. Stössel will research how to make the gelatine fibres even more water resistant as he works towards his ultimate goal of making a biopolymer fibre from a waste product.

Image caption: Spun into yarn and wound around cardboard rolls, it is impossible to tell these fibres are made from gelatine.

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