Challenge 6: Rethinking material resources
Industry Lead: Keracol
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.
- ‘The Potential for Regenerated Protein Fibres within a Circular Economy: Lessons from the Past Can Inform Sustainable Innovation in the Textiles Industry’, Sustainability, 2021, https://doi.org/10.3390/su13042328
- ‘From Clothing Rations to Fast Fashion: Utilising Regenerated Protein Fibres to Alleviate Pressures on Mass Production’, Energies, 2021, https://doi.org/10.3390/en14185654
Prof Richard Blackburn
University of Leeds
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
Prof Veronika Kapsali
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.
Prof Susanne Kuechler
Susanne’s extensive experience and expertise in material cultural studies includes working with a wide range of industrial partners, and understanding the opportunities represented by, and innovating with, alternative materials. An anthropologist of international renown, Susanne leads a forward-thinking Department at UCL, which consciously seeks to bring anthropological insights to bear on contemporary industrial challenges. Susanne has led large-scale RCUK, EU Commission and consultancy projects with businesses seeking to understand the cultural impacts of their practice. Core skills and competences include:
- Uptake and acceptance of new material innovations
- Culture and commerce
- Ethnographic research
Dr Meryem Benohoud
Dr Meryem Benohoud is the Technical Director of Keracol Ltd. With a background in organic chemistry, she gained further research experience in the areas of natural products, green and sustainable chemistry during her research projects in Finland (University of Jyvaskyla) and Japan (Tokyo University of Science). Meryem leads a small team of scientists with a focus on the valorisation of food waste, with a particular interest in natural colourants. The teams’ expertise in phytochemistry, plants extraction processes and analytical chemistry allow the production of ingredients of the highest quality. These are then formulated depending on applications with the team’s experience in colour chemistry, formulation design and performance evaluation. All the efforts are directed towards more sustainable practices, and working in cooperation with other businesses sharing values for sustainability.
Dr Joseph Houghton
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of Leeds / UAL
Joseph is an R&D Fellow in Green and Sustainable Chemistry at the UAL Fashion Textiles and Technology Institute, where he is responsible for working across industry and higher education research settings to elicit a step-change in sustainable materials and renewable fibres R&D. 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. Working in collaboration with industry, economic and commercial feasibility is embedded across the entirety of Joseph’s research. Joseph is currently a Project Lead on an SME R&D Project with Virustatic, supported by the Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology Creative R&D Partnership, where he supports the company in the innovation of textile coatings to replace the use of toxic metal-based chemicals for the antimicrobial treatment of fabrics and textiles.
Core skills and competencies include:
- Green and sustainable chemistry
- Biomass valorisation
Hannah Auerbach George
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Since completing her masters in Woven Textile Design at the RCA, Hannah’s career within Textiles has spanned industrial production, historical textiles, design, consultancy, research and education. She co-founded a woven R&D studio, Norn Design, developing bespoke fabrics with clients in London, New York and Italy. Following her passion for sustainable design and traditional crafts, Hannah spent an extended period in Japan where she worked as a consultant and woven designer. She has extensive knowledge of manufacturing processes and sustainable schools of thought. Hannah applies her diverse experience to every project she undertakes resulting in a distinctive approach routed in technique and process. Core competencies include:
- Research, innovation, design and production – Sustainable woven textiles
- Sustainable approaches to design including Biomimicry, Circular Economics and Regenerative Design.
- Problem solving and tactile knowledge exchange
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.