In the first instance of the research, our team set out to scope the existing state of the art when it comes to biomaterials. The review showed a range of materials that demonstrate various levels of availability to market: now, near, or far. It also showed the different parts of the supply chain in which innovation could take place. The review of over 80 different materials led to creating a lifecycle map which highlights the stages of resource extraction, transformation and use of the materials, with a focus on materials from non-fossil sources. This map is based on the materials from the sample collection, and built as a collaboration between the HEREWEAR partners who are involved in design and material processing. To further validate and explore the impact of designing with biomaterials across the lifecycle, we have interviewed some key materials innovators using the map as the starting point to better understand their material. There are many different types of bio-based materials which offer complementary angles on a circular future. Understanding what to look out for to reduce impacts and how to use exemplary materials adequately in well-designed products is key to the success of a circular bioeconomy.
This series of posts presents these materials and highlights how they show paths towards circular local and biobased systems that we can learn from and follow in HEREWEAR.
Iroony® is the trademark referring to the materials (cellulosic pulp, fibers) developed by Anne and Charles Reboux in partnership with flax and hemp farmers in France as well as technology partners such as DITF, also a HEREWEAR partner.
The material can be made from the stalk of flax or hemp (1), as the two resources have similar chemical compositions, making the supply chain more agile depending on what is available. To create resilient systems, the emphasis is on using bi-products of essential agriculture, such as for food production, highlighting the potential of the technology to work hand in hand with feeding the planet. Similarly the company has steered away from using bi-products that already have a use such as for fertilising future crops. Charles and Anne Reboux hold a patent for the technology which allows them to extract the cellulose from the hemp and flax bi-products (2). This concentrated resource is then handed over to a partner, in this case DITF for the chemical dissolution and the spinning of the filament through its HighPerCell® innovative and environmentally-friendly technology (3). They are keen to produce fibres and fabrics that are fitted to their market applications, and these considerations are taken into account from the early stages of specification in the pulp and filament production, where technical properties can be defined. Added function can also be introduced in the yarn spinning stage, so far Iroony® have tested twisted and ring-spun yarns for woven and knitted applications (4). Once more with an eye on the market applications, the company is interested in the dye uptake (5) as well as the potential for digital printing on the material (6). Some applications will require a blend between the regenerated cellulose and cotton for example, posing the question of whether the fabric itself is designed either as a mono-material or not. To better understand the value of the material in circular and sustainable systems, Iroony have collaborated with designer Sondès LJ, who specialises in creating garments made to last through the wearer’s morphological shifts, using large seam allowances for example to enable future changes (7). Finally, based on general knowledge about cellulose fibres, it is assumed that the fabric could be biodegradable (8), although tests are still needed to identify what type of composting would be adequate. When using the HighPerCell® technology in partnership with DITF, this leads to a material which, in theory, could once more be dissolved in the same process to re-regenerate the cellulose (9). Other options for open-loop recycling, feeding the waste textiles into other industries, such as paper in this case, could be envisaged. Finally it must be noted that most materials can be incinerated for energy recovery.
Iroony® is an example of a material that is made from locally available waste biomass, in an attempt to recover as much value from the resource as possible. It can offer different routes to closed or open-loop recycling, depending on the fibre production process and the type of blending involved. Iroony® is currently in development at the lab phase with pilot productions in preparation to develop collaborations with market stakeholders.
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Please contact – Laetitia Forst