p2lab : Creating biomaterials from wool waste
p2lab

Creating biomaterials from wool waste

3D printing (Source: Petra Garajová)
3D printing (Source: Petra Garajová)

The food industry and mass production have been producing a high amount of wool waste for a long time. Wool goes beyond the boundaries of textiles.

In her project Petra Garajová, co-founder of the start-up p2lab, Barcelona/Spain, investigates chemical properties of wool waste. It defines a new value of wool using current technologies and design. The material research is focused on extraction of keratin and the usage of sustainable chemicals. The extraction is adapted to DIY laboratory tools to easily produce impure keratin. Keratin is used to refine the properties of biofilms or composites in combination with other additives. Their combination is investigated in terms of applications for the 3D printing technology. Its waterproof and fire-retardant properties are reflected in coating agents for textiles.
Chemical properties of wool fibers through extracting keratin and implementing it in the fabrication of new biomaterials are investigated. It aims to define a new value of wool as a material using current technologies and design as a tool. It analyzes wool in all states of matter using green chemicals, biomaterials and additive manufacturing.

Extracted keratin

The material research is focused on extraction of keratin, DIY fabrication and the usage of sustainable chemicals in the production process. The extraction is adapted to DIY laboratory tools that can be easily made and used to produce impure keratin as an open-source material. The extracted keratin is used as liquid or powder to refine the properties of the produced biofilms or composites in combination with other additives. Their combination is investigated in terms of possible applications for the 3D printing technology. Its waterproof and fire-retardant properties are reflected in coating agents for textiles. All possible outcomes of the project will be found in a material library which represents a challenge for the post-processing of wool waste.
High-quality wool is resold to textile companies where the wool is subsequently processed and fibers insufficient for fiber production are removed from it. Wool of sheep bred primarily for the production of milk and meat does not meet sufficient parameters for the fashion industry. After all, an excessive percentage of wool as low quality wool still ends up in landfills.

Creating bioplastics

Keratin solution and powder are incorporated into production as the main or by-product. Protein is studied in terms of waterproof and refractory secondary properties of materials. The following experiments examine materials such as those made directly from keratin, extruded bio-composites, electrically developed fibers or a sprayed solution directly on the surface of textiles. All methods work with wool fiber and its chemical properties from an unconventional point of view. The original purpose of the research is to expand the field of wool applications in the arts and the use of wool using design and digital tools.
This material research does not produce pure keratin that could be used to form biofilms. It can be used to produce bioplastics. In most of the bioplastics tested in this study, keratin is blended with another polymer to achieve different final material qualities. We can create a material library of various examples in which forms of biomaterial can be applied and researched.

Electrospinning (Source: Petra Garajová)
Electrospinning (Source: Petra Garajová)
Bioplastics (Source: Petra Garajová)
Bioplastics (Source: Petra Garajová)

The aim of the 3D printed prototypes is to test its ability to form bonds with other
polymers and to find a suitable form that can be used in the design industry. The keratin was found to best form bonds with materials other than the protein itself. Among the first attempts to create a mass for 3D printing was a combination with sodium alginate, tapioca, corn starch and guar gum, whether in powder or liquid form.
The uniqueness of keratin lies in its hidden chemical properties such as water resistance and slow burning. We can implement its uniqueness in textile finishing. We will create a new layer thanks to spraying keratin on the surfaces of fabrics. Then we can improve their resistance to water and fire. Finishing with keratin spray, subsequent pressure and rinsing saves energy and does not use excessive amounts of chemicals. Compared to other methods excessive water consumption is not required and more efficient results of the final textiles are achieved.
Last but not least, different types of DIY electrospinning machines were tested with
keratin solution to generate nano or microfibers. The content of the syringe is spun or
sprayed on a metal collector that is connected to a high voltage generator too. This
creates an electrical voltage between the collector, the needle and the material. The
collected material impinges on the metal collector and thus creates a thin layer of fibers. Then it is removed together with the aluminum foil.

The research was part of Petra Garajová’s  studies at the Fabricademy Textile & Technology Academy and at Fab Lab Barcelona IAAC. Also, thanks to Anastasia Pistofidou, the thesis mentor.



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