Scientists Turn Milk Into Chemical-Free Silk

The “got milk?” ad campaign reintroduced an entire generation of Americans to the dairy industry. Pictures of celebrities and popular athletes sporting milk mustaches made milk look cool to those who had long since graduated from kindergarten. Thanks to researchers at the Textile Research Association in Germany, a new way to wear milk may now signify, milk’s newest popular iteration.

Anke Domaske, German designer and biochemist (not a combination you meet every day) has come up with a new textile that looks like silk and has been made using milk. Called “Qmilch,” the fabric has all the softness and flexibility of silk, while also exhibiting the durability and washability of cotton.

milk-silk-Qmilch

Image via Milkotex.com

Before there are any outcries against the idea of using a food product for non-edible purposes, it’s important to note that Domaske’s invention uses powdered dairy protein sourced from milk that was otherwise unusable according to the Germany’s strict food safety regulations.

Domaske says she was inspired to continue previous research on milk-based textiles when her step-father developed a textile allergy after being treated for cancer. Many modern fabrics are treated with chemical-based dies and cleaners before becoming the clothes we buy on the rack. These harsh substances can result in allergic skin reactions, especially in young children and the elderly.

qmilch-fabric

Image via Milkotex.com

Domaske’s technique of boiling protein power and then pressing it into strands improves on a previous Chinese process that took 60 hours to complete and was very water intensive. No chemical additives are used at any time during the production process of Qmilch, and the result is very soft and smooth, without the scaliness of wool or the roughness of cotton.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog