Source: Textile Review


In the last 20 years a dramatic rise in biotechnology innovations is leading to an escalating number of low-cost and effective biotechnology solutions in textiles processing and the discovery of exciting new fabrics. To produce those fabrics, yarn and fiber manufacturers currently are experimenting with a variety of bio-based products that offer a three-fold market appeal - one is that the products are derived from a natural renewable resource, are more earth-friendly than synthetics and are far less dependent on petroleum-based ingredients. The product that has emerged an as promising alternative to synthetic fibers is derived from corn.


Biotechnology has been used in the textile industry for more than 100 years, since amylase enzymes from malt extract were first used to degrade starch-based sizes for cheap and effective desizing. In the last 20 years a dramatic rise in biotechnology innovations is leading to an escalating number of low-cost and effective biotechnology solutions in textiles processing and the discovery of exciting new fabrics.


To produce those fabrics, yarn and fiber manufacturers currently are experimenting with a variety of bio-based products that offer a three-fold market appeal - one is that the products are derived from a natural renewable resource, are more earth-friendly than synthetics and are far less dependent on petroleum-based ingredients.


The product that has emerged as a promising alternative to synthetic fibers is derived from corn. Corn fiber is made using fermentation of simple plant sugar to create a range of textile products and applications. Although the fiber itself comes from corn starch, which generates a lactic acid (the basis for a polymer) by fermentation, it is not "natural" since there is chemical transformation. It is however considered 'renewable' since it does not come from a fossil product. The company that makes the corn-based plastic resins marketed under the NatureWorks PLA and Ingoe fiber brand is NatureWorks LLC, USA. The name Ingoe literally means "ingredients from the earth".

About the fiber

Corn fiber is a man made fiber derived entirely from annually renewable resources. These fibers have the performance advantages often associated with synthetic materials, and complementing properties of natural products such as cotton and wool.


The process for manufacturing the polymer used to make corn fiber on an industrial scale centers on the fermentation, distillation and polymerization of a simple plant sugar, maize dextrose. The sugars are fermented in a process similar to making yogurt. After fermentation products are transformed into a high-performance polymer called polylactide, which can then be spun or otherwise processed into corn fiber for use in a wide range of textile applications.


The production and use of corn fiber means less greenhouse gases are added to the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are the chief contributor to global climate change. Compostability and chemical recyclability mean that under the right conditions and with the right handling, the complete life cycle of production, consumption, disposal and re-use is neatly closed.


Important attributes of Corn Fiber

The fiber comes entirely from corn, is fully eco-compatible and has exceptional qualitative features. The properties associated with the corn fiber are:


  • Corn is available in both spun and filament forms in a wide variety of counts from micro denier for the finest lightest fabrics to high counts for more robust applications.
  • It is derived from naturally occurring plant sugars. When products come to the end of their useful life, they can be returned to the earth, unlike petroleum based products, which can only be disposed of through thermal recycling, physical recycling or landfill.
  • Corn fiber balances strength and resilience with comfort, softness and drape in textiles. Corn also uses no chemical additives or surface treatments and amazingly, is naturally flame retardant.
  • It is reported to have outstanding moisture management properties and low odor retention, giving the wearer optimum comfort and confidence.
  • Corn fiber filament is said to have a subtle luster and fluid drape with a natural hand offering a new material to stimulate creativity.
  • Corn fiberfill allows outerwear garment makers to offer a complete story and a more environmentally friendly alternative to polyester and nylon combinations in padded garments.
  • It reportedly outperforms other synthetics in resistance to UV light, retaining strength color and properties overtime.