The classic Chick-fil-a® cows might be celebrating the latest material innovation from a New Jersey-based startup working to change the way we think about leather. Modern Meadow has developed biofabricated leather made without animal hides. This new material, called Zoa, is animal-free and can even be made in a liquid leather form.
While traditional leather is made from collagen-based animal hides that have been chemically altered through processes like tanning to remove nearly everything but collagen, Zoa is made from collagen grown from yeast in a lab. Collagen is a protein found in animal skin that provides elasticity and suppleness, and is key to the desirable characteristics of leather.
So, Modern Meadow is in effect, jumping ahead in the leather making process, starting from collagen to create leather. In fact, Modern Meadow can genetically engineer the yeast to grow collagen with different properties – think of it like mimicking the type of animal hide they would like to reproduce, such as lamb hide versus cow hide. Plus this material can be grown to the size and shape needed, it is not limited by the size and shape of an animal, as with traditional leather.
Once the material is grown to the desired aesthetics, dimensions and properties, it goes through a tanning and finishing process to finalize it into leather.
The first clothing made with Zoa was introduced in late September at a fashion exhibit in New York, with a t-shirt formed by stichless seams made with liquid leather, but what are other potential applications of this modern material innovation?
Some possibilities proposed by the company include leather made to look like the leather of one animal, such as a crocodile, but have the physical properties of another, like a lamb; or perhaps to be able to grow leather of a rare or extinct animal.
Zoa is described by its creators as being able to hold any density or mold, take on any texture, combine with any other material, be any size, and be liquid or solid. How could this versatile material help our future?
The Innovation, Inspiration & Ideas blog was created to share stories and profiles of companies, products and individuals creating innovation in business through inventive material solutions. For more information on why we launched it, read our blog introduction.
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