Helen Lu, Allie Obermeyer, and Theanne Schiros Published in Chem’s UN COP26 issue

Article discusses the future outlook of sustainable biotextile production, covering methods to improve textile industry sustainability

Dec 07 2021 | By Allison Chen
Helen Lu, Allie Obermeyer, and Theanne Schiros

An article by Helen Lu, Percy K. and Vida L. W. Hudson Professor of Biomedical Engineering; Allie Obermeyer, assistant professor of chemical engineering; and Theanne Schiros, principal investigator in the Columbia University Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, was published in Chem as part of a special climate change issue in concert with the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), along with other colleagues. “Bioengineering textiles across scales for sustainable circular economy” discusses the future outlook of sustainable biotextile production, covering methods to improve textile industry sustainability from the molecular scale (protein engineering) to the fiber scale (green chemistry processing) to the manufacturing scale (green biomanufacturing).

The authors explain how researchers and manufacturers can apply synthetic biology and biomanufacturing methods to make bio-based textiles with the desired performance properties, such as stretch, color, and moisture management, with lower environmental output. The article describes how these techniques can ultimately lead to a circular materials economy where waste is recycled into valuable materials indefinitely. The piece also highlights startups that are creating sustainable bio-based fibers, including the authors’ collaboration with Werewool, a biomaterials company that engineers biodegradable textile fibers with tailored aesthetic and performance properties.