Yiqi Yang is the 2021 recipient of the AATCC Olney Medal for outstanding achievement in textile science. Yang is being recognized by the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC), Research Triangle Park, NC/USA, for his work on the research and development of sustainable, greener textiles. He received the medal from previous Olney recipient Gang Sun (photo, right) at the AATCC Textile Discovery Summit held from October 4-6, 2022, in Charlotte, NC/USA. Yang also delivered the traditional Olney Medal Address at the summit, entitled “A small step towards a more sustainable, responsible, and profitable textile industry”.
Yang’s contributions to textile science include the development of new bio-based fibers and textile chemicals from agricultural wastes and co-products, and cleaner productions in coloration and finishing. His pioneering research on new bio-fibers such as 100% protein fibers from poultry feathers, and stereo-complexed PLA fiber with very good resistance to hydrolysis during high temperature textile processes are examples of his work.
A prolific researcher, Yang spent his career in the Midwest of the USA, working with farming communities to take what would be considered unusable waste (e.g. chicken feathers) and transforming it into a clean, sustainable, usable product. His research has also uncovered a way to create plastics that are biodegradable through plant-based alternatives found in the textiles and materials industry.
Yang and his lab began to collaborate with researchers from Jiangnan University in China in the early 2000s on this concept. Through their research, they discovered that polylactic acid or polylactide, found in cornstarch and other plants, is a more environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based plastics. By heating the plastic with polylactide to a higher degree and allowing it to cool slowly, the researchers learned that the plastic was more durable in hot or cold temperatures, making it more suitable for the textile and materials industry.
Throughout his career, Yang has worked with his students and collaborators to find ways to create a more “sustainable and environmentally responsible textile industry.” His research in agricultural products and co-products have had far-reaching impacts locally, nationally, and internationally.