Bio-Based Textiles and Fibers

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Bio-based textiles and fibers represent a revolutionary shift in the fashion and textile industry, offering sustainable alternatives to conventional fibers derived from petroleum or resource-intensive agricultural practices. These materials are produced from renewable biomass sources such as plants, algae, fungi, or even recycled waste materials. They offer a compelling solution to reduce the environmental footprint of the textile industry, known for its heavy reliance on water, energy, and chemicals, while often generating significant waste and pollution.

Impact on climate action

Bio-Based Textiles and Fibers offer a significant boost to climate action by reducing reliance on fossil fuels in textile production. Their adoption minimizes greenhouse gas emissions, conserves water, and promotes sustainable land use. These materials also support circular economy practices, fostering a more eco-friendly and resilient fashion industry.


  • Biomass Conversion and Fiber Spinning: Transforming biomass into usable textile fibers involves various techniques:
    • Cellulose Regeneration: Cellulose, a abundant biopolymer found in plants, is dissolved and then regenerated into fibers using various chemical processes. Examples include viscose, lyocell, and modal fibers.
    • Protein-Based Fibers: Proteins from sources like soy, casein (milk protein), and even spider silk can be processed and spun into fibers.
    • Algal Fibers: Algae can be processed to extract fibers that can be spun into yarn, offering a sustainable and potentially biodegradable alternative to traditional textile fibers.
    • Closed-Loop Recycling: Innovative technologies are being developed to recycle textile waste into new fibers, reducing the need for virgin materials and promoting a circular economy.
  • Textile Manufacturing Processes: Bio-based fibers can be woven, knitted, or non-woven into fabrics using traditional textile manufacturing processes. Innovations are focused on optimizing these processes for bio-based fibers and developing new techniques to create unique textures and functionalities.

TRL : 7-9 (depending on the specific material and application)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • High-Performance Bio-Based Fibers: Developing bio-based fibers with improved strength, durability, moisture management, and other properties to match or exceed the performance of conventional textile fibers. This involves modifying the fiber structure, blending different bio-based fibers, and incorporating performance-enhancing additives.
  • Biodegradable and Compostable Bio-Based Textiles: Creating textiles that can decompose completely in composting facilities or natural environments, reducing textile waste and promoting circularity.
  • Functionalized Bio-Based Textiles: Imparting specific functionalities to bio-based textiles, such as antimicrobial properties, UV protection, or water repellency, through chemical modifications or the addition of bio-based additives.
  • Closed-Loop Textile Recycling: Developing innovative technologies that can efficiently recycle blended fabrics and complex textile waste into high-quality fibers, promoting a circular economy in the textile industry.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Sustainable Cellulose Fibers
  • Protein-Derived Textiles
  • Algal-Based Fabrics
  • Eco-Friendly Fiber Regeneration
  • Circular Fashion with Bio-Based Textiles
  • Performance-Enhanced Bio-Fibers
  • Biodegradable Fashion Materials
  • Functional Bio-Textiles
  • Closed-Loop Textile Systems
  • Upcycled Bio-Based Yarns
  • Innovative Fiber Spinning Techniques
  • Water-Saving Textile Manufacturing
  • Smart Bio-Based Fabrics
  • Antimicrobial Bio-Textiles
  • UV-Protective Bio-Fabrics
  • Compostable Fashion Solutions
  • Bio-Based Textile Blends
  • Advanced Bio-Fiber Composites

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. Infinited Fiber Company:
    • Technology Enhancements: Infinited Fiber Company utilizes a revolutionary process to transform cellulose-rich materials, such as cotton-rich textile waste, into new and high-quality fibers. Their technology is based on a circular approach, reducing the need for virgin materials.
    • Uniqueness: What sets Infinited Fiber Company apart is its ability to produce fibers that are virtually indistinguishable from virgin fibers, offering a sustainable alternative without compromising on quality.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Their bio-based fibers cater to fashion brands and textile manufacturers looking to reduce their environmental impact and meet the growing demand for sustainable products.
  2. Bolt Threads:
    • Technology Enhancements: Bolt Threads specializes in engineering proteins found in nature to create sustainable fibers with unique properties. Their flagship product, Microsilk™, mimics the properties of spider silk, offering a strong and versatile material for various applications.
    • Uniqueness: Bolt Threads’ biofabricated materials offer a sustainable alternative to traditional textiles, with properties that can be tailored for specific end-uses, such as apparel, footwear, and even medical applications.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Bolt Threads collaborates with leading fashion brands and innovators across industries to incorporate their bio-based fibers into products that prioritize sustainability and performance.
  3. Spinnova:
    • Technology Enhancements: Spinnova has developed a breakthrough technology that directly converts wood fibers into yarn without the need for harmful chemicals or solvents. Their process is water-efficient and significantly reduces the environmental impact of textile production.
    • Uniqueness: Spinnova’s technology offers a truly sustainable solution by utilizing renewable wood fibers sourced from certified forests, enabling the production of textiles with minimal environmental footprint.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Their bio-based fibers cater to brands and manufacturers seeking sustainable alternatives for textiles across various industries, including fashion, outdoor apparel, and home textiles.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Aalto University (Finland):
    • Research Focus: Aalto University’s research in Bio-Based Textiles and Fibers centers on developing sustainable textile materials derived from renewable biomass sources, such as plant fibers, cellulose, and biopolymers.
    • Uniqueness: Aalto University’s approach emphasizes the use of innovative manufacturing techniques, such as biofabrication and nanocellulose processing, to create bio-based textiles with enhanced properties, such as strength, durability, and biodegradability.
    • End-use Applications: The applications of Aalto University’s research span various industries, including fashion, automotive, and healthcare. For instance, they’re developing bio-based textiles for clothing, upholstery, and medical implants, offering eco-friendly alternatives to conventional synthetic materials.
  2. Cornell University (USA):
    • Research Focus: Cornell University’s research in Bio-Based Textiles and Fibers focuses on leveraging biotechnology and materials science to engineer novel bio-based fibers with tailored properties for diverse applications.
    • Uniqueness: Cornell’s approach integrates genetic engineering techniques with biopolymer synthesis to design fibers with customizable characteristics, such as strength, elasticity, and coloration. Their research also explores the use of sustainable feedstocks, such as agricultural residues and algae, to produce bio-based fibers.
    • End-use Applications: The applications of Cornell’s research include apparel, home textiles, and advanced materials. For example, they’re developing bio-based fibers for sportswear, packaging materials, and biodegradable composites, contributing to a more sustainable and circular economy.
  3. University of Manchester (UK):
    • Research Focus: The University of Manchester’s research in Bio-Based Textiles and Fibers focuses on advancing the understanding of natural materials and bio-based polymers to develop innovative textile solutions with improved sustainability and performance.
    • Uniqueness: Manchester’s approach combines fundamental research in biomaterials with applied engineering techniques to create bio-based textiles with superior functional properties, such as moisture management, thermal insulation, and antimicrobial activity.
    • End-use Applications: The applications of Manchester’s research span diverse sectors, including fashion, healthcare, and construction. For instance, they’re exploring the use of bio-based textiles for wound dressings, architectural membranes, and smart textiles embedded with sensors for healthcare monitoring.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Bio-based textiles and fibers are seeing increasing commercial implementation, with several brands incorporating these materials into their products.

  • Clothing and Apparel: Several brands are now offering clothing made from bio-based fibers like Tencel, Modal, and bamboo. These fibers are often marketed as being more sustainable and comfortable than conventional fibers.
  • Home Textiles: Bio-based fibers are being used in home textiles, such as bedding, towels, and carpets. These fibers offer benefits like breathability, moisture management, and hypoallergenic properties.
  • Technical Textiles: Bio-based fibers are also finding applications in technical textiles, such as filters, geotextiles, and composite materials.