London: In a first, a Swiss researcher has found a novel method to produce high-quality fibre from gelatine - a natural biomaterial derived from collagen which is obtained from various animal by-products.
Philipp Stossel, 28-year-old PhD student from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) was able to spin the fibres into a yarn from which textiles can be manufactured.
Large quantities of collagen are found in slaughterhouse waste and can be easily made into gelatine.
In his experiments, Stossel noticed that when he added an organic solvent to a heated, aqueous gelatine solution, the protein precipitated at the bottom of the vessel.
He removed the formless mass using a pipette and was able to effortlessly press an elastic, endless thread from it.
He then developed and refined the method that replaces the pipette with several syringe drivers in a parallel arrangement.
Using the spinning machine he developed, Stossel was able to produce 200 metres of filaments in a minute.
He then twisted around 1,000 individual filaments into a yarn with a hand spindle and had a glove knitted from the yarn as a showpiece.
Extremely fine, the individual fibres have a diameter of only 25 micrometres, roughly half the thickness of a human hair.
Whereas natural wool fibres have tiny scales, the surface of the gelatine fibres is smooth.
“As a result, they have an attractive luster,” Stossel said.
Moreover, the interior of the fibres is filled with cavities. This might also be the reason for the gelatine yarn's good insulation, which Stossel was able to measure in comparison with a glove made of merino wool.
Stossel will now research how to make the gelatine fibres even more water-resistant as sheep's wool is still superior to the gelatine yarn in this respect.
The paper appeared in the journal Biomacromolecules.