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#Sustainable fashion from bio-materials like kelp
Fashion Fashion Other

Sustainable textile innovations: bio-yarn from kelp fibers

Raw materials are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, natural fibers such as cotton are very labor-intensive and petroleum-based fibers such as acrylic, polyester, nylon and spandex are not really environmentally friendly, so it's high time to talk about sustainable alternatives for producing fibers and fabrics. . In this series, FashionUnited further discusses these sustainable alternatives and textile innovations that are being developed worldwide.

New York-based AlgiKnit is a research agency focused on biomaterials. The organization has developed a compostable yarn from abundant biopolymers that can be transformed into wearable textiles. In other words: AlgiKnit makes biogars from kelp, seaweed or algae from the biopolymer 'alginate'.

Brown, red Bio-yarn knitted on a table
Bio-Yarn from Kelp

"We aim to work in a closed loop production chain, using materials with a significantly lower environmental impact than normal textiles, and to bring sustainable bio-textile alternatives to the clothing and shoe market," the company said on its website.

Biog-yarn is renewable, closed loop and environmentally friendly

AlgiKnit develops biomaterials from one of the most recyclable and fastest growing organisms on earth - kelp, laminaria digitata to be precise. It is a large brown alga, also known as finger algae. It grows ten times faster than bamboo and is grown in aquatic farms in coastal communities around the world, often by fishermen and women who also have income in low season.

Brown Bull Kelp in blue waters
Kelp in coastal waters also absorbs nutrients from agriculture and sewage waste, both of which can change the coastal environment. This regains nutrients for the next generation of biomaterials and thus improves the environment. Kelp is therefore an ideal material for the future of sustainable textile production.

AlgiKnit extracts alginate from kelp and combines this with other renewable biopolymers for the production of yarn. It is strong and stretchable enough to knit by hand or by machine, to be able to use it for textile production. The final product can be dyed with natural pigments.

"We use an extrusion process to change our biopolymer mixture into a filament. We extrude the mix in a salt bath that heals bio-yarn, "explains AlgiKnit. But that's not all. To minimize waste, all products are knitted. With this technique, AlgiKnit can develop products with little or no waste.

Micro organisms

And when the life cycle of the textile comes to an end? No problem - it can be used again. "If it's worn down or you do not want it anymore, it can be broken down by the microorganisms and nutrients that are being reclaimed to feed the next generation of materials," says Aleksandra Gosiewski, co-founder of AlgiKnit, to Creative Bloq. "I see a future in which the materials we use can be transformed to feed the next generation of products."

2018 is already an exciting year for AlgiKnit: the start-up is taking place at the start of the RebelBio Accelerator program in London. The participation is part of an investment deal of 100,000 US dollars through RebelBio and parent company SOSV. The company has also been selected as one of fifteen start-ups that will participate in the Plug and Play initiative of Fashion for Good.

AlgiKnit was founded by Tessa Callaghan, Aaron Nesser and Aleksandra Gosiewski and originated from BioEsters, the winning team from the BioDesign Challenge 2016. AlgiKnit continues to strive for a materials-driven design approach based on biopolymers, with the generous support of the Fashion Institute of Technology. The company is also supported by the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC), National Geographic and start-up accelerator RebelBio.

By: Simone Preuss