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Photo: Damir Omerovic, Unsplash
12.06.2024

Crops to tackle environmental harm of synthetics

From risottos to sauces, mushrooms have long been a staple in the kitchen. Now fungi are showing the potential to serve up more than just flavor—as a sustainable, bendy material for the fashion industry.

Researchers are using the web-like structure of the mushroom's root system—the mycelium—as an alternative to synthetic fibers for clothing and other products such as car seats.

"It's definitely a change of mindset in the manufacturing process," said Annalisa Moro, EU project leader at Italy-based Mogu, which makes interior-design products from the mycelium. "You're really collaborating with nature to grow something rather than create it, so it's kind of futuristic."

Mogu, located 50 kilometers northwest of Milan, is managing a research initiative to develop nonwoven fabrics made of mycelium fibers for the textile industry.

From risottos to sauces, mushrooms have long been a staple in the kitchen. Now fungi are showing the potential to serve up more than just flavor—as a sustainable, bendy material for the fashion industry.

Researchers are using the web-like structure of the mushroom's root system—the mycelium—as an alternative to synthetic fibers for clothing and other products such as car seats.

"It's definitely a change of mindset in the manufacturing process," said Annalisa Moro, EU project leader at Italy-based Mogu, which makes interior-design products from the mycelium. "You're really collaborating with nature to grow something rather than create it, so it's kind of futuristic."

Mogu, located 50 kilometers northwest of Milan, is managing a research initiative to develop nonwoven fabrics made of mycelium fibers for the textile industry.

Called MY-FI, the project runs for four years through October 2024 and brings together companies, research institutes, industry organizations and academic institutions from across Europe.

MY-FI highlights how the EU is pushing for more sustainable production and consumption in the textile and apparel industry, which employs around 1.3 million people in Europe and has annual turnover of €167 billion.

While getting most of its textiles from abroad, the EU produces them in countries including France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Italy accounts for more than 40% of EU apparel production.

Delicate and durable
The mycelium grows from starter spawn added to crops such as cereals. The threadlike filaments of the hyphae, the vegetative part of the fungus, create a material that grows on top. It is harvested and dried, resulting in soft, silky white sheets of nonwoven fabric that are 50 to 60 square centimeters.

The delicate material is made stronger and more durable through the addition of bio-based chemicals that bind the fibers together.

Its ecological origins contrast with those of most synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester, which derive from fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

That means production of synthetic fibers adds to greenhouse-gas emissions that are accelerating climate change. In addition, when washed, these materials shed microplastics that often end up polluting the environment including rivers, seas and oceans.

The MY-FI mycelium needs very little soil, water or chemicals, giving it greener credentials than even natural fibers such as cotton.

Dress rehearsal
For the fashion industry, the soft, water-resistant properties of the mycelium are as appealing as its environmental credentials.

Just ask Mariagrazia Sanua, sustainability and certification manager at Dyloan Bond Factory, an Italian fashion designer and manufacturer that is part of MY-FI.

The company has used the mycelium-based material—in black and brown and with a waxed finish—to produce a prototype dress, a top-and-midi-skirt combination, bags and small leather accessories.

Laser cutting and screen printing were used to evaluate the material's behavior. The challenge was to adapt to the sheets of fabric—squares of the mycelium material rather than traditional rolls of textiles like cotton, linen and polyester—as well as properties such as tensile strength and seam tightness.

"We have had to completely change the paradigm and design processes and garments based on the material," said Sanua.

The company hopes the mycelium material will be a way of offering consumers a range of products that can be alternatives to animal leather.

Leather-unbound
Meanwhile, Germany-based Volks¬wagen, the world's No. 2 car manufacturer, is looking to mycelium technologies to reduce its environmental footprint and move away from leather for vehicle interiors.

Customers increasingly want animal-free materials for interiors from seat covers and door panels to dashboards and steering wheels, so adding a sustainable substitute for leather is an exciting prospect, according to Dr. Martina Gottschling, a researcher at Volkswagen Group Innovation.

"A fast-growing biological material that can be produced animal-free and with little effort, which also does not require petroleum-based resources, is a game-changer in interior materials," she said.

The mycelium material is also lighter than leather, another positive for reducing VW's carbon footprint.

The company's involvement in MY-FI is driving project researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and I-TECH Lyon in France to enhance the durability of the mycelium fabric. To move from prototype to production line, the fabric must meet quality requirements set by VW to ensure the material lasts for the life of the vehicle.

It's a challenge that Gottschling believes will be met in the coming decade.

"We already see the material as one of the high-quality materials for interior applications that will be possible in the future," she said.

When life gives you tomatoes
Mushrooms aren't the only food with the potential to spin a sustainable-yarn revolution. Tomato stems have a hidden talent too, according to Dr. Ozgur Atalay and Dr. Alper Gurarslan of Istanbul Technical University in Turkey.

Seeing tomato vines left to wither in the fields after the crop was harvested, Atalay and Gurarslan began to investigate whether the stems could be transformed into sustainable fibers.

Tests proved that the agricultural waste could indeed be turned into yarn. But Atalay and Gurarslan were determined to go a step further. They wanted to use tomato stems to create a type of yarn for garments that monitor heart beats, respiratory rates and joint movements.

The two researchers lead a project to create this kind of electrically conductive apparel using—for the first time—sustainable materials.

Called SMARTWASTE, the project runs for four years until the end of 2026 and also involves academic and research organizations from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland.

"The beauty of the project is that we are starting from waste," said Atalay. "We are taking agricultural waste and not just creating regular textiles but something much more valuable."

While cost estimates will follow later in the project when design partners work on creating actual products, he signaled that smart clothing will be a good deal more expensive than the ordinary kind.

A smart textile shirt could cost as much as €1,000, according to Atalay.

The specialized material, limited production runs and research and development needed to create wearable technologies that are durable, washable and comfortable all contribute to the price tag.

Advancements in technology should eventually lead to lower production costs and consumer prices.

Seeds of poplar success
The Turkish countryside has also inspired a second strand to the project. Turkey's abundant poplar trees and—more specifically—their white, fluffy cotton-like seeds prompted Gurarslan to investigate whether they could be a sustainable textile source.

While their fibers have been dismissed as too short to make a yarn, the seeds have three particular properties that appeal to the textile industry: a hollow, pipe-like structure that can trap heat to provide thermal qualities, an antibacterial nature and water resistance.

The network of SMARTWASTE experts has blended the seeds with recycled polyester to make a nonwoven fabric that the team intends to turn into textile products with enhanced thermal properties.

The researchers hope this is just the start of a far-reaching transformation of textiles.

"Our goal is to train the next generation of researchers and innovators in sustainable textiles," said Atalay.

(c) Saralon
04.06.2024

InkTech: How Printed Electronics transform automotive interiors

Automotive industry is a major driver of printed electronics growth. Application areas cover an extensive range either in powertrain (e.g., battery management and thermal interfaces) or interior design (e.g., HMI technologies, interior warmers, displays, 3D smart interfaces with integrated light and decorative elements) and even car exteriors (e.g., integrated antennas, photovoltaics, lights and displays).

Experts suggest that a significant focus on differentiation within the automotive industry is now directed toward developments occurring in interior design and features. Motivations such as cost efficiency, size and weight reduction, lower energy requirements, design freedom and enhanced aesthetics fuel the progress of printed electronics.

Automotive industry is a major driver of printed electronics growth. Application areas cover an extensive range either in powertrain (e.g., battery management and thermal interfaces) or interior design (e.g., HMI technologies, interior warmers, displays, 3D smart interfaces with integrated light and decorative elements) and even car exteriors (e.g., integrated antennas, photovoltaics, lights and displays).

Experts suggest that a significant focus on differentiation within the automotive industry is now directed toward developments occurring in interior design and features. Motivations such as cost efficiency, size and weight reduction, lower energy requirements, design freedom and enhanced aesthetics fuel the progress of printed electronics.

HMI and interior sensing solutions
A primary market for printed and hybrid electronics in automotive industry is the development of Human-Machine Interfaces (HMI) with seamless design. Stretchable electronics and sensor solutions are integrated in plastic, textile or leather parts turning them into smart surfaces that enhance user experiences. Lightweight, flexible and stretchable HMI solutions with customizable form factors replace mechanical buttons and complex wiring systems.

Flexible printed sensors allow for the development of beautifully functional HMI systems with any desired sensing layouts that serve to control and adjust motions, climate, volume, lighting and similar functions at users’ fingertips. The combination of functionality and aesthetics is attained through the integration of touch-sensitive technology with lighting and other decorative elements.

Saral Inks© portfolio for these applications ranges from stretchable conductive inks, printed sensor inks and conductive adhesive inks for LED and SMD attachment and interconnection of several printed electronics layers together; all easily screen-printable.

Embedded sensing solutions within steering wheels, seats and seatbelts are few examples of established practices aimed at enhancing safety and comfort in automotive interiors. Advanced flexible printed pressure and capacitive sensitive electronics facilitate the detection and classification of vehicle occupants.

Heating and thermal management
Printed temperature sensing and heating elements for interior comfort, EV motor drives or battery thermal management constitute other trending application areas of printed electronics in the automotive context.

Printed battery safety sensors ensure the early detection of critical situations in the battery packs in a non-complex and very efficient way. These flexible and thin printed electronics on polymer foils with heating or sensing function facilitate easy handling and integration among individual cells within the battery module. They secure equal distribution of charge, prevent over-charging and improve battery lifetime.

Saral Inks© solutions for comprehensive thermal management include functional inks for printed sensing and heating elements, suitable for battery monitoring, seat and floor warming, as well as defroster systems.

Smart surfaces with 3D geometries
Film insert molding and In-Mold Electronics (IME) stand as pioneering technologies for the integration of printed electronics into automotive parts; with IME emerging as the promising solution for making 3D smart surfaces where conductive inks play the central role.

At the core of IME lies the thermoforming process of printed electronics that involves high pressure and temperatures. Saral StretchSilver 800 conductive ink exhibits remarkable resilience when printed on Polycarbonate (PC) sheets and going through 3D thermoforming processes without sacrificing functionality.

Source:

Saralon

Sensors made from ‘electronic spider silk’ printed on human skin (c) Huang Lab, Cambridge
27.05.2024

Sensors made from ‘electronic spider silk’ printed on human skin

Researchers have developed a method to make adaptive and eco-friendly sensors that can be directly and imperceptibly printed onto a wide range of biological surfaces, whether that’s a finger or a flower petal.

The method, developed by researchers from the University of Cambridge, takes its inspiration from spider silk, which can conform and stick to a range of surfaces. These ‘spider silks’ also incorporate bioelectronics, so that different sensing capabilities can be added to the ‘web’.

The fibres, at least 50 times smaller than a human hair, are so lightweight that the researchers printed them directly onto the fluffy seedhead of a dandelion without collapsing its structure. When printed on human skin, the fibre sensors conform to the skin and expose the sweat pores, so the wearer doesn’t detect their presence. Tests of the fibres printed onto a human finger suggest they could be used as continuous health monitors.

Researchers have developed a method to make adaptive and eco-friendly sensors that can be directly and imperceptibly printed onto a wide range of biological surfaces, whether that’s a finger or a flower petal.

The method, developed by researchers from the University of Cambridge, takes its inspiration from spider silk, which can conform and stick to a range of surfaces. These ‘spider silks’ also incorporate bioelectronics, so that different sensing capabilities can be added to the ‘web’.

The fibres, at least 50 times smaller than a human hair, are so lightweight that the researchers printed them directly onto the fluffy seedhead of a dandelion without collapsing its structure. When printed on human skin, the fibre sensors conform to the skin and expose the sweat pores, so the wearer doesn’t detect their presence. Tests of the fibres printed onto a human finger suggest they could be used as continuous health monitors.

This low-waste and low-emission method for augmenting living structures could be used in a range of fields, from healthcare and virtual reality, to electronic textiles and environmental monitoring. The results are reported in the journal Nature Electronics.

Although human skin is remarkably sensitive, augmenting it with electronic sensors could fundamentally change how we interact with the world around us. For example, sensors printed directly onto the skin could be used for continuous health monitoring, for understanding skin sensations, or could improve the sensation of ‘reality’ in gaming or virtual reality application.

While wearable technologies with embedded sensors, such as smartwatches, are widely available, these devices can be uncomfortable, obtrusive and can inhibit the skin’s intrinsic sensations.

Last year, some of the same researchers showed that if the fibres used in smart textiles were coated with materials that can withstand stretching, they could be compatible with conventional weaving processes. Using this technique, they produced a 46-inch woven demonstrator display.

“If you want to accurately sense anything on a biological surface like skin or a leaf, the interface between the device and the surface is vital,” said Professor Yan Yan Shery Huang from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, who led the research. “We also want bioelectronics that are completely imperceptible to the user, so they don’t in any way interfere with how the user interacts with the world, and we want them to be sustainable and low waste.”

There are multiple methods for making wearable sensors, but these all have drawbacks. Flexible electronics, for example, are normally printed on plastic films that don’t allow gas or moisture to pass through, so it would be like wrapping your skin in cling film. Other researchers have recently developed flexible electronics that are gas-permeable, like artificial skins, but these still interfere with normal sensation, and rely on energy- and waste-intensive manufacturing techniques.

3D printing is another potential route for bioelectronics since it is less wasteful than other production methods, but leads to thicker devices that can interfere with normal behaviour. Spinning electronic fibres results in devices that are imperceptible to the user, but don't have a high degree of sensitivity or sophistication, and they’re difficult to transfer onto the object in question.

Now, the Cambridge-led team has developed a new way of making high-performance bioelectronics that can be customised to a wide range of biological surfaces, from a fingertip to the fluffy seedhead of a dandelion, by printing them directly onto that surface. Their technique takes its inspiration in part from spiders, who create sophisticated and strong web structures adapted to their environment, using minimal material.

The researchers spun their bioelectronic ‘spider silk’ from PEDOT:PSS (a biocompatible conducting polymer), hyaluronic acid and polyethylene oxide. The high-performance fibres were produced from water-based solution at room temperature, which enabled the researchers to control the ‘spinnability’ of the fibres. The researchers then designed an orbital spinning approach to allow the fibres to morph to living surfaces, even down to microstructures such as fingerprints.

Tests of the bioelectronic fibres, on surfaces including human fingers and dandelion seedheads, showed that they provided high-quality sensor performance while being imperceptible to the host.

“Our spinning approach allows the bioelectronic fibres to follow the anatomy of different shapes, at both the micro and macro scale, without the need for any image recognition,” said Andy Wang, the first author of the paper. “It opens up a whole different angle in terms of how sustainable electronics and sensors can be made. It’s a much easier way to produce large area sensors.”

Most high-resolution sensors are made in an industrial cleanroom and require the use of toxic chemicals in a multi-step and energy-intensive fabrication process. The Cambridge-developed sensors can be made anywhere and use a tiny fraction of the energy that regular sensors require.

The bioelectronic fibres, which are repairable, can be simply washed away when they have reached the end of their useful lifetime, and generate less than a single milligram of waste: by comparison, a typical single load of laundry produces between 600 and 1500 milligrams of fibre waste.

“Using our simple fabrication technique, we can put sensors almost anywhere and repair them where and when they need it, without needing a big printing machine or a centralised manufacturing facility,” said Huang. “These sensors can be made on-demand, right where they’re needed, and produce minimal waste and emissions.”

The research was supported in part by the European Research Council, Wellcome, the Royal Society, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Source:

Sarah Collins, University of Cambridge

A Passion for Paisley Photo The Great Tapestry of Scotland
21.05.2024

Edinburgh was weaving Paisley shawls 40 years before Paisley

Edinburgh was weaving what became known as Paisley shawls in the 1700s more than 40 years before the Renfrewshire town they were named after, a new exhibition will show.

Hosted by Heriot-Watt University and The Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels, the exhibition will reveal that Edinburgh weavers were the first in Britain to create replicas of the Kashmir shawls brought back from India, the first recorded being in 1767.

It wasn’t until 1808 that Paisley’s weaving industry started making the shawls, and later gave the garment its iconic name.

The exhibition, called A Passion for Paisley, will feature a selection from the range of more than 100 shawls and shawl fragments that forms part of the University’s textile collection, housed in the Scottish Borders Campus in Galashiels.

Edinburgh was weaving what became known as Paisley shawls in the 1700s more than 40 years before the Renfrewshire town they were named after, a new exhibition will show.

Hosted by Heriot-Watt University and The Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels, the exhibition will reveal that Edinburgh weavers were the first in Britain to create replicas of the Kashmir shawls brought back from India, the first recorded being in 1767.

It wasn’t until 1808 that Paisley’s weaving industry started making the shawls, and later gave the garment its iconic name.

The exhibition, called A Passion for Paisley, will feature a selection from the range of more than 100 shawls and shawl fragments that forms part of the University’s textile collection, housed in the Scottish Borders Campus in Galashiels.

Helen Taylor, Archivist at Heriot-Watt University, said: “Paisley design has stayed a very iconic motif and has remained a fixture even as fashions have changed.  Our collection in the Borders is a very good one and was really developed for teaching and research. You can't recreate the weaving, because the looms don’t exist anymore. But if you’re looking for design inspiration, Paisley shawls are a great example of East-West influence.”

Paisley shawls are richly patterned and often feature a distinctive Persian-style teardrop motif. This is inspired by the Babylonian Tree of Life, a magical tree from Mesopotamian mythology that grew in the centre of paradise.

Other motifs include floral and tendril designs, a striped zebra design and an oblong motif known as a ‘temple door’ design. Red was a recurring colour in Paisley shawls, alongside blues, greens, yellows and other colours, all created from natural plant dyes. Paisley shawls were hugely popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Empress Josephine, Napoleon’s first wife, was known to own about 400 of the woollen shawls.

“When the British empire was expanding, people started bringing back Kashmir shawls as gifts,” Ms Taylor explained. “They were very expensive and were actually woven in cashmere. Weavers in Edinburgh started making reproduction shawls, and the first record of a reproduction Kashmir shawl being woven was in Edinburgh in 1767.”

Edinburgh in the 1700s already had a damask industry – when designs are woven into fabric rather than printed onto it – and it was these weavers who started making the reproduction Kashmir shawls. But when fashions evolved and the shawls got bigger, the Edinburgh weavers started outsourcing to Paisley, where weaving skills and technology were advancing and amongst the best in the world.

“In Edinburgh, shawl weaving was more of a cottage industry, with small looms being used around the city’s Old Town and shawls being woven in sections and sewn together,” Ms Taylor said. “In Paisley, they started using Jacquard looms, which used punch cards and allowed more complex design to be woven more easily.”

Most of Heriot-Watt’s Paisley shawls were collected by a ceramics curator called Janet Paterson who collected Paisley shawls in the 1940s and 50s. The collection was given to the University by her son, Alan, along with his tartan collection.

A Passion for Paisley runs from 26 March to 12 July 2024 at The Great Tapestry of Scotland, 14-20 High St, Galashiels TD1 1SD. There is an entrance fee of £5.

Heriot-Watt School of Textiles and Design dates back to 1883, when classes in weaving, dyeing and chemistry were introduced to train workers for the local textiles industry.

The School is a centre of excellence in design, with Honorary Graduates including British fashion icon Dame Vivienne Westwood. It is based on Heriot-Watt’s Scottish Borders Campus, which is built around a historic mill in Galashiels, at the heart of Scotland's luxury textile industry.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre was purpose-built to house The Great Tapestry of Scotland, one of the world’s largest community arts projects. The Tapestry was hand-stitched by a team of 1,000 stitchers from across Scotland and charts 420 million years of Scotland's history, heritage, innovations and culture through 160 panels.

Source:

Heriot-Watt University