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(Archive) GOLD

100% collagen 0% plastic - a novel collagen-derived biopolymer for high-performance textiles

This project was part of DDW 2022
GOLD textiles - 100% collagen 0% plastic — © Denny Sachtleben, WINT Design Lab

Can nature help us meet the growing demand for synthetic textiles and avoid the consumption of petrochemicals? From RNA sequencing to material archaeology, this design research project examines a specific cow gut tissue with the goal of creating a sustainable highly performant textile.

RNA sequencing and biomanufacturing

GOLD is a design research project inspired by the properties of Goaldbeater skin, the outermost tissue layer of the cow gut. This extremely thin, elastic, tear-resistant membrane was historically used as a separating layer when beating leaf gold. We investigated its outstanding properties, determined the tissue structurally and biochemically, and sequenced its RNA. Our goal is to synthetically replicate its material properties to develop a biopolymer to produce high-performance textiles. The substrate is cultivated in bioreactors and is therefore 100% vegan and biodegradable.

Material archeology and prototyping

During this one-year research grant, we explored the aesthetic and functional design features of Goldbeater skin. The research explored the potential of the material's properties in the field of today's outdoor equipment. The study of the natural fabric was conducted at FILK Freiberg. While experimenting with the natural material, we searched forgotten archives and old scientific papers for descriptive process steps. Since collagen is the most abundant biopolymer in nature, animal skins have been used by humans throughout history. For example, the Inuit made water-repellent gut parkas from similar tissue types to keep hunters dry in their kayaks. Applying advanced methods of fabrication including robotic yarn laying and material lamination, a taxonomy of process steps was documented in videos and material samples. Based on our findings, we developed and designed a new generation of water-repellent outdoor jackets.

The exhibition

Global demand for synthetic textiles is steadily increasing, while their production continues to consume large quantities of petrochemicals, energy, and unsustainably sourced raw materials. We believe that nature provides inspiration for sustainable and high-performance textile alternatives. As part of the "Rethinking Plastic" exhibition, WINT Design Lab will present a year of materials research on the Goldbeater skin. The result is a one-to-one demonstrator running jacket. It is made from natural material to demonstrate the functionality and aesthetics of bio-synthetically grown collagen substrate - the basis for GOLD textiles.

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GOLD running jacket — © Denny Sachtleben, WINT Design Lab

GOLD running jacket detail — © Denny Sachtleben, WINT Design Lab

Ultra light-weight GOLD running jacket — © Denny Sachtleben, WINT Design Lab

Water-repellent and tear-resistant material