In the latest strategy devised by the textile industry, insects are the new targets to help produce fabrics. While initially it may sound like a paradox, this actually is under investigation by German researchers who are exploring various ways of using “chitosan” – a component derived from insect skin called chitin.
Toxic chemicals are soon to take a backseat in the production of textiles. The experts are based at the Fraunchofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology in Stuttgart and they plan to commercialize their newly found technology. Several industrial partners including Protix Biosystems and Textilchemical, are receiving help from Dr. Petry in this endeavor.
Chitin has two roles to play in the textile industry. First, it can be applied to stop textiles from breaking in the weaving process and secondly, it can be used to produce textiles with specific properties like water resistance. The protective effect is based on the principle of film formation of the chitin around the yarn.
The property of water resistance can be attributed to the textiles by adding water resistant molecules to chitin. In addition to this, chitostan can help give antibacterial properties to the fabrics being made using it. Further it is also a cheap procedure as insects can reproduce very quickly and can be bred on low value substrates. This makes them an ideal source of protein.
The German teams’ research are still at a very early stage but if this works out well, it will take the textile industry to another level. Commercializing chitostan is the primary goal now.