With further R&D that can improve bacterial cellulose characteristics, homegrown clothing with this medium can definitely reduce waste in the apparel and textile industry. Bacterial cellulose is unique in that it circumnavigates most steps needed for textile manufacturing in the status quo.
With future R&D, I believe that bacterial cellulose can be made at a more affordable price that could be cheaper than natural fibres like cotton and wool. Referring to the previous question, bacterial cellulose cuts out most steps of the textile manufacturing process. It removes the usage of pesticides, converting fibres to yarns, yarns into fabric, and in the future can reduce or eliminate the need for cutting the fabric before sewing. Furthermore, it is more receptive to textile dyeing, reducing effluents and toxic chemicals.
Bacterial cellulose and its research as a textile involve interdisciplinary means like microbiology and mechanical engineering. It involves microbiology because further research on modifying the bacteria to produce greater amounts of cellulose is necessary. Furthermore, mechanical engineering is needed to test its capabilities as research progresses with bacterial cellulose as a non-woven.
It is possible to dye bacterial cellulose. As for digitally printing designs, I am unsure. I know that the QUT and the State Library of Queensland used a laser cutter to create a watch with intricate details. As for embroidery, Sacha Laurin has shown bacterial cellulose can withstand additional details.
Corporations have placed greater emphasis on corporate social responsibility and transparency in the last few years. Organisations want to give back more to the communities around them and consumers want to know whether their garments are manufactured using underage child workers, sweatshops and other abusive norms.
Sustainable fashion in future will most likely explore further alternative textiles and utilising by-products or waste products in the creation of textiles.
Smart technology and bacterial cellulose combined may have enormous possibilities. Although I am not aware of any current initiatives that have jointly utilised the two methods, the notion of bacterial cellulose utilising smart technology seems very amenable.
Because the process of growing your own bacterial cellulose is public knowledge, it is not possible to patent that process. However, if efficient techniques or machinery and products made to grow bacterial cellulose in an improved manner were discovered, I would look into patenting those. In terms of commercial production, it ultimately is dependent on how fast R&D can take place for primarily waterproofing the textile, and subsequently instilling more desirable traits within the textile's properties.
Bacterial cellulose is currently in its research phase of improving the textile to become a commercial standard. This roadmap may consist of international research collaborations or various researchers analysing the ingredients to grow bacterial cellulose, shortening the growth cycle, waterproofing and experimenting with bacterial cellulose and design process.
As the research continues, modifying the fabric thickness, consistency, durability, growth cycle speed, and design techniques would be the various qualities that I would be eager to research.
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of technicaltextile.net.