Bacterial Cellulose in Fashion


  • Shayna Demick, Environmental Science, University of Delaware

Faculty Mentor(s)

  • Kelly Cobb, Fashion, University of Delaware
  • Luis Quijano, Fashion and Biotechnology, Queensland Institute of Technology


Global industries are known to be highly unsustainable due to their dependence on non-regenerative, non-degradable raw materials. The living material bacterial cellulose has been researched as a potential remedy. Bacterial cellulose is a pure, woven form of cellulose formed by bacteria instead of plants. Compared to vegetable cellulose, bacterial cellulose has a high degree of purity, high tensile strength, excellent permeability, low density, greater crystallinity, stability, high mechanical resistance, high biocompatibility and a large surface area. Bacterial cellulose has shown promising applications as artificial blood vessels, wound dressing, paper-thickening agents, bioremediation tools, food packaging agents, textiles and more. In the apparel industry, bacterial cellulose is being explored as an alternative to virgin materials such as leather, cotton and cellulose. Current bacterial cellulose products on the market include accessories, wallets and bags, and their feasibility as wearable textiles is being investigated. Bacterial cellulose films can be formed by producing kombucha, which involves the fermentation of water, sugar, tea and a kombucha culture (SCOBY). Environmental conditions such as nutrients, temperature and fermentation time are thought to increase or decrease bacterial cellulose yield and quality. I used kombucha SCOBYs along with a nitrogen source and carbon source to form 9 bacterial cellulose films. The goal of my research was to divert food waste from landfills in an effort to promote circular production methods for bacterial cellulose production. Existing literature identifies green tea as the best nitrogen source for bacterial cellulose, so this ingredient remained constant in my research. The carbon source, which is conventionally table sugar, was replaced with diluted blends of carrot and strawberry food waste. After 10 days of fermentation, the films were dried in a refrigerator and evaluated using standard textile tests, including tensile strength, abrasion resistance and elongation.