The broader impact/commercial potential of this I-Corps project is to support the development of biodegradable performance fibers with inherent color and material performance that can be attributed to protein structure for the fashion and textile industry. This product addresses the fashion and textile industryâ€™s concerns over the environmental impacts of petroleum-based synthetic fibers (polyester, nylon, spandex, etc.) as an extractive raw material source that persists in the environment as microplastics. The proposed fiber manufacturing offers a valuable alternative to conventional textile dyeing, the second largest sources of water pollution, and textile finishing, a source of environmental volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and human health hazards.
This I-Corps project is based on the development of a platform for engineering proteins with a desired function (color, stretch, and moisture management) and enzymatically cross-linking them into a fiber for textile applications. The technology enzymatically cross-links engineered proteins that are expressed and amplified in E. Coli or yeast. The protein-based fibers are selected, or designed, to map a desired textile property into a functional fiber, film or biopolymer raw material suitable for industrial spinning processes. These engineered proteins are designed to address the demands of the textile industry by providing attributes such as inherent color and stretch to the fibers. Proof-of-concept has been demonstrated in the development of biopolymer composite fibers with inherent color and fluorescence.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.