Sequins made from wood could be bio-based alternative in fashion

Materials World magazine
1 Jul 2019

Wood can be turned into glittering sequins, as demonstrated by the Bio Iridescent Sequin project. Shardell Joseph writes.

Looking for bio-based options in fashion, material scientists have created sequins of wood that shimmer in a variety of colours, which usually consist of reflective materials such as aluminium on a plastic base.

Collaborating with researchers from the Research Institute of Sweden (RISE), Sustainable Material Research and Concept Designer, Elissa Brunato, created the Bio Iridescent Dequin project to show the potential correlation between luxury, beauty and sustainability. Brunato presented the swatches of embroidered cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) sequins at The Material Futures Exhibition during Milan Design Week in April 2019. The full project, including a new study of sequin shapes, will be presented in London at the Material Futures Degree show from 18-23 June 2019.

‘In general, people were in awe that the sequins were shimmering naturally as they were first convinced that the material was petrol-based, purely from its visual appearance,’ said Brunato. CNCs are increasing in popularity as a sustainable bio-based nanomaterial due to their unique structural and physiochemical properties, such as renewability, low density, biocompatibility, adaptable surface chemistry, optical transparency, non-toxic, biodegradability and improved mechanical properties.

The nanocrystals have shown promise for applications in fields such as biomedicine, pharmaceuticals, electronics, barrier films, nanocomposites, membranes and super capacitors. Now Brunato and the researchers are utilising the CNCs’ ability to form liquid crystals, which can be dried into coloured and iridescent films, for fashion – understanding more about how structure can be controlled and used for different properties.

‘It’s interesting to understand how to control the self-assembly behaviour that gives rise to these colours,’ said RISE Materials Scientist Tiffany Abitbol. ‘Can we for instance speed up the process to create fast drying, iridescent cellulose nanocrystal coatings? Can we improve mechanical properties and water resistance of the films, while maintaining their structural colours?’

According to Brunato, the sequins are still in the prototype stage. ‘While I am able to embroider with them, I am still working on natural waterproofing and testing their longevity,’ Brunato told Materials World.

‘Regarding their price, the economy around bio-based materials, such as cellulose nanocrystals, is increasing and with the increase of use the projected price of these types of materials is expected to lower.’

The team is planning to continue its research to explore new forms of cellulose and nanocellulose.