Cotton, silk, flax, hemp -- all of those natural materials are used to make fabric. But now milk? German fashion designer and microbiologist Anka Domaske and a small team of researchers at the Fiber Institute at the University of Bremen successfully invented a textile made of milk, according to the Associated Press.
Although you can't eat it, and it's not exactly vegan-friendly, the new material is the world's first manmade, industrial-strength fiber produced from raw milk materials. The team has even created organic and chemical-free clothing.
Called Qmilch -- a combination of quality and the German word for milk -- the silky-smooth material is made using an environmentally friendly process. What's more, Qmilch is biodegradable, antibacterial, anti-allergy, and even anti-aging, according to Domaske. The clothing contains a protein, casein, a byproduct of sour organic milk used in the clothing that stores nutrients that can soften skin, regulate body temperature, and maintain water balance.
Domaske was inspired to make the material after watching her father suffer through skin irritations while being treated for cancer. Textiles made with milk fibers have been around for nearly 80 years -- they have relied heavily on acrylics, but this new material is completely organic.
Domaske's material is less expensive to make than conventional milk-based material, which requires thousands of gallons of water and oil byproducts to produce two pounds of fabric. Qmilch needs only a half-gallon for the same amount of material.
Surplus milk is reduced to a protein powder, boiled, and then mixed with other organic materials, such as beeswax, before being pressed into strands and woven into fiber.
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It isn't cheap, though, costing about $28 per kilogram, more than organic cotton, which sells for about 40 percent less, but Domaske hopes local production will cut down on the cost of shipping.
The textile hierarchy was so impressed with Domaske's invention that the German Textile Research Association honored her with an innovation award.