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Green tea + bacteria = future fabric

December 22, 2010

Posted by Jimmy
My favorite issue of the New York Times Magazine comes out every December. It's called "The Year in Ideas." The issue highlights some of the most promising, ground-breaking, innovative, brilliant and crazy ideas of the year. Right in the middle of brilliant and crazy is the idea of growing fabric out of bacteria and green tea. Sort of the ultimate upcycling scheme.

A researcher named Suzanne Lee at a design college in London has invented a method whereby she mixes yeast and bacteria and adds it to a tub of sweetened green tea. She leaves it for two weeks to feed on the sugar. The fermentation creates a sort of cellulose mat on top. On a pond, it would look like scum. It's the waste that is discarded when beverages are fermented. But she found that she could lift it out and place it over wooden dress forms. After several days, it cures into a garment. She's even found she can sew panels together. The fabric is the color amber ale. You can see several pieces of Lee's "Biocouture" project at the Science Museum in London as part of the exhibit "Trash Fashion: Designing out Waste."