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Grantee Research Project Results

Developing Sustainable Products Using Renewable Cellulose Fiber and Biopolymer Composites

EPA Grant Number: SU835524
Title: Developing Sustainable Products Using Renewable Cellulose Fiber and Biopolymer Composites
Investigators: Lee, Young-A , Farr, Cheryl , Kessler, Michael , Xiang, Chunhui
Current Investigators: Lee, Young-A , Farr, Cheryl , Ghalachyan, Armine , Kessler, Michael , Li, Rui , Madbouly, Samy , Ramasubramanian, Gauri , Wen, Zhiyou , Xiang, Chunhui
Institution: Iowa State University
EPA Project Officer: Levinson, Barbara
Project Period: August 15, 2013 through August 14, 2014
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2013)
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemistry

Description:

To reduce the environmental impact of textile and apparel production, new composites will be developed by using renewable cellulose fiber and biopolymer obtained from agricultural products such as corn or soy. Academically diverse students from Iowa State University are designing and evaluating the new product, vest, developed from the composites having good tensile strength and relatively low moisture regain. This project is consist with P3 benefits including a cleaner community environment, reduction in energy use, reduction of fiber processing and fabric production costs, reduction of material waste, and development of a textile that has potential for production beyond an experimental prototype.

Objective:

Recent developments with sustainable biopolymers have the potential to be combined with the cellulose fibers to produce composite textiles with the cellulose fiber mats. To meet the technical challenge of combining the cellulose fibers grown in mats with sustainable biopolymers, innovative and inventive research will be employed. The purpose of the proposed project is to identify a method of growing and combining the cellulose fibers from bacteria and yeast in fermented tea with sustainable biopolymers obtained from agricultural plant products such as corn or soy, to reduce moisture regain and to increase strength of the cellulose fiber.  New products developed from the composites will have good tensile strength and relatively low moisture regain which are the key parameters for regular daily wear.

Approach:

The challenge will be the limitations of chemical compatibility with the cellulose molecule and the necessity to have all aspects of the product and processes sustainable. Recent developments with sustainable biopolymers have the potential to be combined with the cellulose fibers to produce composite textiles with the cellulose fiber mats. Development of a method to treat the cellulose fiber mat that provides a sustainable product will include treating the mat with a sustainable biopolymer that reduces moisture regain and increases tensile strength. Two methods will be conducted: 1) renewable cellulose fibers will be incorporated into biopolymer composites and 2) biopolymer nanoparticles dispersed in water will be added to bacteria and yeast in fermented tea during growing the cellulose fibers. Options include treatment with biopolymers formed from plant oils, corn protein or soy protein. The proposed development approach of sustainable vest using renewable cellulose fiber and biopolymer composites includes: 1) to document the specific ingredients and process for producing consistent cellulose fiber mats from bacteria and yeast in fermenting tea within an environmental sustainability context, 2) to identify the environmentally sustainable biopolymers compatible with the cellulose fibers mats, 3) to test the incorporation of the environmentally sustainable biopolymers with the cellulose fiber mats and to identify those methods that offer the greatest potential, 4) to test the properties of the composites developed from cellulose fiber mats and biopolymers that combine for reduced moisture regain and increased tensile strength, 5) to develop one prototype, vest, from the composites with higher strength and lower moisture regain, and 6) to evaluate the durability and wearability of the prototype.

Expected Results:

The project outputs will include characterization of the developed composites (e.g., morphology, strength, moisture regain), sustainable product prototypes, evaluation of the products (e.g., durability, wearability), and the development of instructional materials.  The project will provide students with the opportunity to make connections among the source of raw materials, the processing needed to transform them into a new textile composite suitable for apparel, the impact of products and processes on the environment, and the potential for the process and the product being adapted to larger scale production. In an agricultural state, making the connection from farm to consumer has the potential for being transforming experience for the students and the faculty.

Supplemental Keywords:

science, technology, innovation, teaching resource;

Progress and Final Reports:
Final Report

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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