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Creating quite the buzz, a new industry-university research collaboration is developing a sustainable, water repellant coating for textiles from bio-manufactured bee protein.

New Zealand based biotechnology research company Humble Bee Bio (HBB) has been awarded a $70,000 grant by The Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) to develop a nature-inspired alternative to the harmful chemicals used in durable water repellent (DWR) textile coatings.

In partnership with Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) and supported by the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF), HBB will use their novel biopolymer – inspired by an Australian solitary masked bee – to develop a formulation and production method for an environmentally friendly DWR coating.

Water-repellent, resistant to high-temperatures and strong chemicals, HBB’s materials are a safe, sustainable and ecofriendly alternative to the harmful polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals currently used in DWR textile coatings.

Professor Joselito Razal, Director of ARC Research Hub for Future Fibres at IFM, said the project reinforced Deakin’s commitment to re-designing materials for a circular economy.

‘Deakin University will utilise its world class expertise and facilities in fibre and materials science to facilitate Humble Bee Bio’s vision of a sustainable Australian textile industry,’ he said.

Worth a total of $566,000 cash and in-kind funding, the seven-month project aims to significantly advance HBB’s ability to establish manufacturing facilities to produce the biopolymer and DWR treatment at scale.

ANFF CEO, Dr Jane Fitzpatrick, said innovative ecosystems are critical for achieving commercialisation.

‘We are thrilled to be involved in the development of HBB’s novel biopolymer,’ said Dr Jane Fitzpatrick. ‘ANFF has world-class expertise, equipment and facilities that will enable HBB to refine their formulations, explore new applications in advanced biomanufacturing that will ultimately support a sustainable future for the textile industry.’

The research team will utilise ANFF’s world-leading equipment to characterise HBB’s biopolymer and then develop DWR formulations and produce DWR coated textile samples for evaluation against current market standard.

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