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Cellulose shoes made by bacteria

25.08.2022 09:02 AM
Cellulose shoes made by bacteria
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Cellulose shoes made by bacteria

A British company aims to produce a new class of material that will replace traditional sneakers with durable and biodegradable ones. The new shoe is made from bacteria that naturally produce nanocellulose and can be genetically modified to self-dye as well, and is molded onto the shoe by using traditional shoe techniques.

According to a report - published in the journal Nature Biotechnology on the ninth of this August - Jane Kane and Ben Reeve founded during the year 2020 in London the company "Modern Synthesis" for biotechnology, which works on the follow-up of "tissue microbial" and expand production.

Modern Synthesis has built a prototype shoe-making lab, and the biomaterials startup has raised $4.1 million in seed funding to support a microbial textiles platform that aims to make the fashion industry more sustainable.

The company is using its microbial tissue platform to grow an entirely new form of fabric made from nanocellulose, a very strong and exquisite form of cellulose, the natural building block of materials such as cotton, linen and wood.

How does the technology work?

Microbial weaving technology takes advantage of bacteria to convert sugar from agricultural waste into nanocellulose, a biodegradable and robust material, and uses the startup's microbial tissue process to create the biomaterial in approximately 10 to 14 days. Employees at the company create a scaffold using robots to lay the fibers in the desired shape or structure, and genetically modified bacteria grow around those structures to create the final material.

Similar to 3D printing - and unlike traditional weaving - the pieces can be designed to shape, meaning there are no scraps of material left over, and therefore no waste. So far, the company has been able to build the upper part of the shoe using this process. The company says it has handed over its materials to a "major sportswear customer" for prototyping. The company eventually plans to take advantage of the microbes to replace a variety of leather, animal-derived textiles, and petrochemicals.

The importance of new materials

The company specializes in manufacturing new materials using biology to help reduce fashion industry emissions and plastic pollution, and plans to replace existing petrochemical-based textiles and leather with a range of renewable, natural materials that can be uniquely customized.


Rather than trying to create a replica of a material like leather, the company says it is focusing on developing an entirely new type of material. In the process, it has built an entirely separate class of new material, a hybrid/combined material that will replace athletic shoes made from animals and petrochemicals with biodegradable, yet durable ones.

In an interview with Dezeen, the world's most recognized and influential architecture and interior design magazine, CEO Ken spoke about the role and importance of new materials in relation to climate change, the role microbes can play in shaping the future of fashion, and how Using biomaterials in handicrafts, some of which are based on traditional practices and traditional techniques.

Really exciting for the fashion industry

"What we're trying to do is build this new class of materials that are more sustainable, but also allow us to design and create in new ways, which is really exciting for the fashion industry," Ken tells the AgFunder Network. More than 70% of greenhouse gas emissions in the fashion industry come from the production, preparation and processing of raw materials.

“Ultimately, we are trying to build a circular manufacturing system using these microbes. This enables us to take advantage of agricultural waste, use the microbes as manufacturing units and turn them into more viable materials. On the other hand, we see the opportunity to have new materials that are entirely cellulosic, even We can recycle it again."

The startup is one of the few companies trying to create a "new class" of materials. New York-based Bucha Bio said the same in 2021 about its bio-leather-like tissue made by fermentation, and MycoWorks recently received $125 million to continue developing the approved dermal alternative.

However, a 2021 report by the Materials Innovation Initiative (MII) found that even if biotextiles reached its projected market of $2.2 billion by 2026, it would still represent only about 3% of the materials market, with 69% of the materials being Animal-based, petroleum-based materials that make up the rest.

"Our goal is to get this material out to the world as quickly, widely and responsibly as possible," says Kane. "To do that, we need to draw on as many research and development resources as possible to speed up this process."

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