The composition of lyocell fabric could be set to change after Australian biotech company Nanollose filed a joint patent with Indian business Grasim Industries (Birla Cellulose) for a new environmentally-friendly lyocell.
Used in many everyday garments including jeans, casual wear and activewear, the fabric is known for being absorbent, lightweight, soft and wrinkle resistant.
A form of rayon, lyocell consists of cellulose fibre, which has been traditionally made using the cellulose found in wood - especially eucalyptus - and other woody plants including bamboo.
Seeking a greener alternative to using trees and bamboo, Nanollose's cellulose is made using steam from large-scale industries like food and agriculture, which then goes through an eco-friendly fermentation process - creating a 'tree-free' cellulose.
The cellulose is then turned into a fibre (branded as nullarbor fibre), yarn and fabric, eventually becoming clothing.
Now, Nanollose and Birla Cellulose are set to take the process into a pilot production phase to produce initial commercial quantities of fibre to enable commercial agreements with fashion brands.
Nanollose executive chairman Dr Wayne Best said the business is excited to present the solution to the fashion industry.
"We are extremely pleased with the progress of our collaboration with Grasim and Birla Cellulose which has already delivered this patent application.
"The nullarbor fibre produced by the team at Birla Cellulose has exceeded our expectations, and we now have a fibre that is not only more eco-friendly but has superior properties over conventional tree-based fibres.
"We are very much looking forward to commencing the pilot production and presenting textiles made from this remarkable fibre to the fashion industry," he said.
According to the businesses, not only is the nullarbor fibre more environmentally friendly, it is also finer than silk and is significantly stronger than conventional lyocell made from wood pulp.
Birla Cellulose CTO Dr Aspi Patel added that the business is excited to scale up the eco-friendly production process of nullarbor fabric.
"This innovative development is another important step in our continuing journey to make our fibres more sustainable.
"This is an exciting development in the area of next generation alternative feedstock and we are looking forward to scaling up this technology in collaboration with Nanollose," he said.
The joint patent application follows a collaboration agreement which Nanollose signed with Birla Cellulose in February 2020.