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Nanollose Creates World’s First Rayon Fashion Clothing made from Liquid Waste

BULETIN TEKSTIL.COM/ Jakarta – Rayon is generally known as one of regenerated cellulose textile material from cellulose obtained from cellulose extraction process originating from wood or bamboo. The process is done in order to transform wood into wood pulp by cooking the wood in solution consisting of sodium sulphide (Na2S) and sodium hydroxide (NaOH) to remove lignin from wood. The lignin removal process from woods will then be followed by screening, washing, bleaching, pressing, and drying. The cooking process is the essential step to be done in the cellulose production process in order to remove the lignin naturally contained in wood or bamboo raw materials.

An Australia-based Company Nanollose is currently developing newest innovative technology in the development of cellulose originating from bacteria (microbial cellulose). Instead of using chemicals to extract cellulose from wood or bamboo, Nanollose utilizes Acetobacter xylinum bacteria to consume organic farming liquid waste (containing glucose) and transforms glucose into cellulose. Cellulose produced from the bacteria-involved process is also free from hemi-cellulose and lignin (different from wood and bamboo that contains lignin and hemi-cellulose), meaning that cellulose produced from Acetobacter xylinum bacteria no longer requires cooking process due to lack of lignin. Based on that, it could be concluded that that the cellulose produced from the bacteria no longer needs lignin-removal process (no longer needs cooking process), so it is considered more environmentally friendly compared to the cellulose process from wood and bamboo.

With the source of cellulose they invented, Nanollose has successfully developed lyocell fibre which produced tree-free and 100% made from microbial cellulose, known as Nullarbor fibre. Nullarbor fibre then will be spun into yarn to produce fabric and used as garment raw material. On Nanollose’s official website, Wayne Best (CEO of Nanollose), stated “We have successfully took waste and make fabric, also done by following industrial protocols. Our fibre are spun into yarn and made into fabric, then produced into garments by utilizing existing industrial equipment. It validates our entire process.” he explained.

Nullarbor lyocell fibre produced from microbial cellulose, the result of development by Australia-based Company

Fibre and clothing made from tree-free rayon fibre (Nullarbor)

Fabric made from tree-free rayon fibre (Nullarbor)

How did the invention begin?

The microbial cellulose technology has actually been unintentionally discovered more than two decades ago by scientist Gary Cass (now one of non-executive director of Nanollose). Gary Cass unintentionally flooded wine barrel with oxygen, and it resulted with a cellulose layer on the liquid after the Acetobacter consumed the wine. Cass spent years on the possibilities of using the cellulose until he partnered with Australian fashion designer Donna Franklin in 2006. Together, they launched the world’s first ever dress made from wine.

In 2014, he also exhibited another dress made from similar methods in World Expo in Milan, with the intent to market them. The development continued on utilizing organic farming liquid waste (containing glucose) to produce cellulose with the help of Acetobacter xylinum. Researchers discovered that the method has high sustainability value compared to using wine that they did in the beginning of the discovery. On the company’s official page, they have explicitly claimed that they have invented world’s first rayon fashion made from waste (non-wood).

One of the dress successfully made from microbial cellulose

What are the benefits from using microbial cellulose compared to the existing method?

Nullarbor fibre does not require tree as the raw material on its production process, therefore the production method no longer requires fertile land to grow trees, irrigation, and pesticides. This gives positive aspect that the production process of Nullarbor fibre is not dependent on trees availability, weather and sun rays for photosynthesis process, nor extensive forestry land to provide wood as a raw material. Microbial cellulose as the raw material of Nullarbor fibre only requires organic farm liquid waste (containing glucose) to produce cellulose with the help of Acetobacter xylinum.

You might be wondering, how about the technology facilities of microbial cellulose required to be constructed to produce a number of cellulose pulp? Is it applicable on industrial scale with high production capacity? How does it compare to cellulose pulp such as woods, bamboo, and cotton? Which one is more productive?

Through comparative study, the answers to the questions above are stated by Nanollose Company regarding how much land is required to produce a certain amount of cellulose pulp as below.

  • Cotton plantation in the size of a 70 metre x 100 metre football field will produce around a half a ton of cellulose pulp (yearly) with a permanent cycle of 6-8 months.
  • If the same size of a land is allocated for trees, then 3,5 ton of cellulose pulp yearly can be produced with a cycle time of 12-18 years to grow.
  • Bamboo is possible to be harvested at a faster cycle, which is in 3-7 years, and produce around 12 tons of cellulose pulp (yearly) in a land of the same size.
  • Microbial cellulose has a leading value in comparison with other source of cellulose, producing 115 ton of cellulose pulp (yearly) in a land of the same size, with a harvest cycle of 10-15 days.

Productivity comparison of the amount of cellulose pulp produced from cotton, tree, bamboo, and microbial cellulose yearly with an area the size of a football field

The illustration shows that the microbial cellulose has excellent feasibility potential by productivity to be applied on an industrial scale. Based on the comparison, it can be said that microbial cellulose produces 32x more productivity of cellulose pulp yield compared to trees, and 9x more cellulose pulp compared to bamboo. Since the production process of microbial cellulose pulp is done in a simple vessel, the production of microbial cellulose is able to be increased many times by using multilevel production floor facilities.

YouTube video regarding microbial cellulose is available through this link: https://youtu.be/P3bXclXWOTw

Until this article is being written, Nanollose is collaborating with numerous stakeholders in Australia with hope in immediately giving a wide positive impact from the discovery of the product. Although not elaborating the current progress, they are certain that this fiber is able to be mass produced on a large industrial scales and also room in the market in the next 5 years.

(Red B-Teks/Andrian Wijayono)

Magister Rekayasa Tekstil dan Apparel, Politeknik STTT Bandung

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