Sweet Synthetics: Sugar Nylon Fabric

nylon made from sugar

Synthetic fabrics are widely used and highly versatile; however, the benefits we gain from these textiles don’t always outweigh the drawbacks that come from toxic production processes and materials.

Scientists at Singapore’s ASTAR Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) recognized this problem and sought out some alternatives, coming up with a pretty sweet solution- literally!

Developers created a new form of nylon made from sugar.

So how did this sweetened sugar nylon come to be?

Does the sartorial future really include outfits made from sugar? Possibly – a key component of nylon is adipic acid. It is used in fabric for clothing, rugs, toothbrush bristles, etc. Creating this acid requires a chemical-based process that emits a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. This is not ideal for a product that is mass-produced.

Fortunately, a new, much greener process has been discovered that can convert adipic acid from sugar.

This is a particularly convenient development for mass-production. The process to convert the sugar is simple; it can be done in one or two steps. The chemical reaction is mild, much safer and less toxic than the previous process.

The resulting material is a much cleaner, more pure product than the original. Mass-produced fast fashion is a particularly difficult market to bring green practices to, so technology that combines eco-friendly innovations plus speed and convenience is a helpful step in converting the industry.

The success of this product has its innovators excited about future applications and expansions on this project.

IBN is confident that the technology can bring about positive change to the textile industry, and is currently seeking collaborator to commercialize it. Additionally, the company has future plans to experiment with other materials, such as replacing sugar with raw biomass.

Jessica Bucci

Jessica has been trained in a wide variety of textile and fiber processes, traditional as well as computer-aided, which she uses in both her design and sculptural work. Jessica has also served as a teaching assistant for beginning weavers and drawers.