Project Title: Algae as a New, Alternative Source of Cellulose Fibres for use in Textiles
Supervisors: Professor Peter Ralph and Dr. Donna Southerland
Project Background: Cellulose is the most abundant naturally occurring polymer, providing the key structural component to plant cell walls, in addition to being secreted by some bacteria. Having a wide range of applications, cellulose is used as animal feed, biofuels, natural fibre and pharmaceutical. Historically natural sources of cellulose include wood pulp, cotton, flax, jute and hemp. Traditional growing and extraction methods of natural cellulose require large areas of arable land, the use of environmentally hazardous chemicals (herbicides and pesticides), large quantities of water and have lengthy growing periods.
Increased global populations and the impacts of climate change have resulted in an increasing need for improved usage and management of arable land.
Investigations into algal cellulose as an alternative have presented algae as a viable source, with environmental benefits. Algae have fast growth rates, don’t require arable land or clean, freshwater, and can be harvested year-round, with the added benefit of being carbon fixers.
The goal of this PhD project is to develop a new source of natural textile fibres that promote the production of economic, social and environmental sustainability in the textile industry.
- Determine most effective method of cellulose extraction and fibre production
- To identify algal species with high cellulose content per unit of biomass
- Identify optimum cellulose productivity in the selected algal species
Funding: This project is funded by the Australian Government’s Research Training Program Scholarship.