Slaughterhouse Scraps Can Be Used to Make Mittens

By Carl Engelking | July 29, 2015 2:29 pm
The glove on the left, made with gelatin fiber, has a silky sheen, whereas the glove made of sheep’s wool has no luster. (Credit: ETH Zurich)

The glove on the left, made with gelatin fiber, has a silky sheen, whereas the glove made of sheep’s wool has no luster. (Credit: ETH Zurich)

Swiss scientists discovered a way to warm your hands with slaughterhouse scraps, and it’s not as gross as it sounds.

The butchering process yields a host of byproducts that’ll never be sold in a grocery store, but that doesn’t mean they’re useless. Cast-offs like bone, tendons and skin are rich sources of collagen, and scientists figured out a way to spin yarn from this waste, which can be used to produce clothing.

Waste Not, Want Not

Collagen is the primary component of connective tissues in our bodies. In fact, it’s the most abundant structural protein in mammalian bodies. Collagen is an ingredient of gelatin, which is in myriad food products we eat every day — it’s the stuff that gives Jell-O its bounce.

Scientists also wondered, however, whether these materials could be used to create an environmentally-friendly alternative to synthetic fibers. The inspiration for this was a realization one day in the lab: When scientists added isopropyl, an organic solvent, to a heated gelatin solution, the protein precipitated and settled at the bottom of a container. The muck that amassed at the bottom of the beaker could be pulled out and stretched like taffy into a long, thin thread.

Scientists devised a method to spin large quantities of their gelatin yarn, and they managed to produce more than 650 feet of their gelatin yarn per minute. They made a pair of mittens with their new fibers. Since gelatin is water-soluble, scientists treated the mittens with an epoxy resin, formaldehyde and wool grease, or lanolin, to waterproof the mittens without diminishing their flexibility.

They published their yarn-making process in the journal Biomacromolecules.

Almost There

Scientists are still working on improving the waterproof qualities of products made with gelatin yarn, but scientists believe they are very close to making a fiber that can serve as an alternative to synthetic fibers, and that’s a win-win for the environment.

First off, making yarn from slaughterhouse scraps reduces waste from the butchering process, which introduces concentrated quantities of biological waste into the environment. Secondly, gelatin yarn offers an eco-friendly alternative to synthetic fibers, which are manufactured with polymers obtained from petroleum or natural gas.

A growing segment of consumers are seeking out guilt-free products made from renewable resources, and scientists’ new yarn may someday help retailers meet this growing demand.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: materials science
ADVERTISEMENT
  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    “The butchering process yields a host of byproducts that’ll never be sold” Oh? Turn of a century past, “everything but the squeal” in “Chicago, hog butcher for the world.” More engineers, fewer advocates. no BS.

    “treated the mittens with an epoxy resin, formaldehyde and wool grease” (EPA link to formaldehyde priority carcinogen hunts censored.)

  • Ivar Ivarson

    Didn’t Thomas Edison produce a rayon-like yarn made from pig ears as a P.R. joke disproving the old adage, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”? Thought I read this in a child’s biography of Edison. I’ve gotten nowhere googling it.

    • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

      Arthur D. Little, Inc.

  • Ivar Ivarson

    Thank you, Uncle Al. Now I see why I am frustrated so often in searches.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

D-brief

Briefing you on the must-know news and trending topics in science and technology today.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar
+