Planet Earth

A Kernel of Style

By Fenella SaundersSep 1, 2000 5:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

Ecology-mided folks have a new way to wear their concerns on their sleeves. Cargill Dow, a polymer company in Nebraska, has found a way to spin clothing fibers out of cornstarch. Right now they're using starch from the kernels, but the process could someday turn agricultural waste into crisp polo shirts.

Photo by Cargill Dow

Through a mix of fermenatation and chemical processing, Cargill Dow transforms Cornstarch into lactic acid and then into a long, elastic molecule. The resulting material is as strong and resilient as regular plastics. It can be mmolded or spun into a silky, breathable fabric. "Our raw material comes from sunlight and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, whereas in any other plastic, that raw material comes from hydrocarbons out of the ground," says Pat Gruber, Cargill Dow's vice president of technology. "Overall we can use 20 to 50 percent less fossill resources in manufacturing our product." Corn-based food containers and clothing have hit stores in Europe and Japan, where one eco-friendly designer created a wedding dress from the biodegradable fiber.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month
Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
1 free articleSubscribe
Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.