Challenge 6: Rethinking material resources and technical opportunities

Microfibre pollution from synthetic textiles accounts for over one third of plastics in the open ocean. With growing public and consumer awareness, the environmental incentive for rethinking alternative material resources could not be more stark.

Meanwhile, the UK food and drink manufacturing industry produces almost 2 million tonnes of waste per annum – the dairy industry being the largest generator of such waste. Much of this waste is inevitable, for example by-products of cheese production, and could be reimagined as resource.

While alternative material development for fashion and textiles may be considered relatively nascent, pioneering chemists in the 19th and 20th Century developed to semi-commercial scale a range of largely-forgotten Regenerated Protein Fibres (RPFs) – including those derived from milk, egg and soy.

Early research focusing on fungi, nettle, hemp and seaweed was also relatively advanced, and emergent technologies have received renewed interest in recent decades. The final technical barriers to widespread exploitation, which halted RPF and non-protein-based fibre innovation in the early 20th Century, can now be overcome.

Team

Dr Richard Blackburn

Lead Co-Investigator

Richard is a chemist with a passion for textile science; all his research is undertaken in partnership with industry and with a strong sustainability lens. His vision is for a future where alternative materials match the performance of traditional synthetic or unsustainable natural fibres. Richard’s experience includes developing alternative fibres for textiles, from sourcing raw material to processing and finishing. Core skills and competences include:

  • Alternative materials development
  • Sustainable dyeing and coloration for textiles
  • Contract chemistry research
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Dr Veronika Kapsali

Co-Investigator

Veronika is a Reader in Material Technology and Design at LCF where she is developing novel biomimetic approaches to design and innovation of Active Material Systems within the textile industry that intersect biology, material engineering and textile design. Veronika is an LCF graduate who was awarded a PhD scholarship to study engineering design at Bath University. Her practice intersects academic and manufacturing sectors both within her role as Reader and as co-director of MMT Textiles Limited and inventor of INOTEK TM (an award winning biomimetic textile platform that draws on ambient moisture to trigger reversible mechanical changes in the fabric structure, typically for advanced moisture and insulation management). Veronika is also a bestselling author in industrial design and consults extensively with private and public organisations in material science, textile technology, functional apparel and fashiontech. 

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Joseph Houghton

Dr Joseph Houghton

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Joseph is a Research Fellow in Sustainable Materials and Renewable Fibres at the University of Leeds, he has specialised in Green and Sustainable Chemistry throughout his research career and his research aims to reduce the impact of industrial waste biomass through valorisation routes in hopes of creating biorefinery systems for a more sustainable future. The entirety of his research has been conducted in collaboration with industry, with economic and commercial feasibility being an important driver.

Core skills and competencies include:

  • Green and sustainable chemistry
  • Biomass valorisation
  • Biorefineries
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Image of Marie Stenton

Marie Stenton

PhD Student

Marie is currently a PhD student at LCF exploring alternative routes to a sustainable future of fashion through the potential of regenerated protein fibres. Her previous MA research, undertaken at Sheffield Hallam University, focussed on the development of Bacterial Cellulose and biomaterials as a tool for circular design. Prior to this, Marie graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in Textile Design. She has also worked with brands such as Alexander McQueen and Burberry and ran her own accessories label for 4 years.

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