Fabric for the birds?

Courtesy of Canadian Apparel Magazine:

Partnering with the National Institute of Animal Health, the textile division of Shikibo, a Japanese firm, has developed a bird flu blocking fabric.

The fabric, ‘Flutect’, has been proven to block to spread of bird influenza by 99.9%, its developers claim. Flutect can apparently function for 50 washes and stop the spread of the virus within ten minutes of exposure. Uniforms, masks, filters, jackets and lab coats containing the fabric will be available from 2007 onwards.

And speaking of birds and fabric, clothing made of feather and rice fabrics may be on the horizon. Scientists at the University of Nebraska are developing fabrics from agricultural wastes as a way of reducing the use of petroleum-based fabrics. The feather-based fabric will resemble wool, while the rice straw fabric will look and feel more like linen or cotton, according to the researchers Yiqi Yang and Narendra Reddy.

With millions of tons of chicken feathers and rice straw available worldwide each year, these agricultural wastes represent an abundant, cheap and renewable alternative to petroleum-based synthetic fibers…And unlike petroleum-based fibers, these agro-fibers are biodegradable.

Rice fabrics are the most developed of the two fabric concepts to date. Rice straw consists of the stems of the rice plant that are left over after rice grains are harvested. Like cotton and linen, rice straw is composed mostly of cellulose.

Chicken feathers are composed mostly of keratin, the same type of protein that is found in wool. The researchers are particularly interested in the barbs and barbules, the thin, filamentous network that forms the fluffy parts of the feather. These structures have a sturdy honeycomb architecture containing tiny air pockets that make the filaments extremely lightweight and resilient. Those properties offer the potential for developing fabrics that have lighter weight, better shock absorption and superior insulation — properties that may represent an improvement over wool

Using a special combination of chemicals and enzymes, a process that is now under patent review, Yang and Reddy developed fibers from the straw. The properties of the fibers indicate that the fibers are capable of being spun into fabrics using common textile machinery. The resulting fabric will have an appearance similar to cotton or linen.

Read more at Wired.

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