In Pennsylvania, Penn state researcher Melik Demirel is working on biosynthetic textiles inspired by squid that could cut down on the amount of microplastics entering waterways via laundered synthetic materials.
“These [synthetic] materials, during production, processing and after use, break down into and release microfibers that can now be found in everything and everyone,” Demirel, Lloyd and Dorothy Foehr Huck Endowed Chair in Biomimetic Materials, tells Science Daily. While natural fibers do biodegrade, their production requires significant amounts of water.
Demirel suggests biosynthetic fibers made from natural proteins could solve the problem of microplastics from textiles. Such fibers would be biodegradable and recyclable. He has already developed a biosynthetic fiber made from squid ring-teeth proteins and cofounded a company, Squitex, based on the technology. The resulting fibers are self-healing and biodegradable and have attracted interest from the military.