New microbial weaving process can grow compostable fabric from microbes


Sustainable fashion is just getting started, and we believe the concept will continue to spread as more companies envision such a thriving ecosystem of materials, processes, and products. It is part of a circular economy where waste is shared, reused, repaired, recycled or refurbished to create new products. It is one of the many ways to achieve a better planet for the next generation and we are happy that many scientists and researchers are putting so much effort into this level of development. Making sustainability happen doesn’t always mean leveraging all usable waste for recycling – it can also mean creating new materials, new designs and more sustainable ways for the fashion industry. What has just been introduced that could be beneficial to the game is a new biomaterial from Modern Synthesis.

Designer: Modern Synthesis

Modern Synthesis is a startup working on biomaterials innovation for the fashion industry, aiming to identify radical and regenerative material solutions that could significantly reduce plastic pollution and emissions. Specifically, the company has already begun growing fabrics that can be used for fashion from microbes. There is science behind this idea, which is why Modern Synthesis convinced people to fund his research, and he proudly shared that he received over $4 million in seed funding from AgFunder to develop a microbial textile platform.

Modern Synthesis founders Jen Keane and Ben Reeve recognized the need for more sustainable materials and solutions. Funding from AgFunder is expected to help expand the team, build a pilot facility in London and ultimately ramp up production. The potential for this project is huge, so there’s a bit of urgency when it comes to getting people and systems to work.

Modern Synthesis has introduced a new technology that could make biotextiles from microbes by “weaving” and “growing” a kind of bacteria known as k.rhaeticus– the type found in kombucha tea so the idea is natural. The company has developed a microbial weaving process (still patent pending) to create fabrics and composites by simply cultivating microbes. There is no actual weaving that occurs, as in the traditional sense of weaving, but what does happen is that bacteria grow and drag tiny nanocellulose fibers to create non-woven fibers.

The bacteria grow the tissue over time and take the form of a scaffold if there is a need to create a shape or form. The scaffold acts as the structure where microbes can grow into a strong yet lightweight biomaterial. Simply put, bacteria grown inside a container form any form of structure, like tissue that magically grows out of thin air. But, of course, there’s no magic, just science and technology put to good use for a better planet.

This microbial weaving can be likened to 3D printing as it can also be used for footwear, as explored by founder Jen Keane in 2018. The footwear industry is just one possible application, but we can imagine this process being used in other industries. In the near future, we hope to learn more about a major sportswear brand using this process, as Modern Synthesis recently shared their prototyping process and materials with a certain unknown company.

Modern Synthesis’ goal is to make a significant contribution to a circular economy and, as Keane explained in a report: “Ultimately, we’re trying to build a circular manufacturing system with these microbes. This allows us to take advantage of agricultural waste, use the microbes as manufacturing units and transfer them into more viable materials. On the other hand, we see the opportunity to have new class materials that are all cellulosic so that we can recycle them in silos and a recycling stream.

Replacing these animal and petrochemical materials is also the startup’s goal, so we believe the efforts of everyone involved will not be wasted. Many people hope that this microbial textile technology will remarkably help the fashion industry reduce its carbon footprint. The use of bacteria to transform sugar obtained from agricultural waste into nanocellulose is an innovative development that we hope can also be applied in many industries.

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