Turning Carbon into Textiles with Azolla

Colorful shirts
Image courtesy of Azolla

The Agile BioFoundry and Azolla are teaming up to engineer a bacterium capable of using carbon dioxide and light to produce bacterial nanocellulose, a biopolymer that can be used to make a variety of consumer products. This carbon-to-value regenerative biomanufacturing technology has the potential to become a transformative asset in efforts to avert and reverse the environmental impact of current manufacturing.

Nanocellulose is a commonly used material in the textile industry. However, it is currently made from trees. More than 150 million trees are turned into human-made cellulosic fiber each year. 

As a sustainable alternative, Azolla is developing a phototrophic bacterium that can use carbon dioxide as a principal source material to produce bacterial nanocellulose. This collaboration will seek to further engineer the bacterium, improve the synthetic biology tools that can be used to engineer it effectively, and demonstrate viable bacterial nanocellulose production toward industrial deployment. 

“By turning carbon dioxide into a valuable product, we can address the problematic carbon footprint of the textile industry and give the U.S. a competitive edge in emerging carbon removal technologies,” said Milan Hanacek, co-founder and CTO of Azolla. “While our current focus is on creating carbon negative textiles, we can use our bacterial cellulose in a variety of industries, including packaging, construction, and home furnishings. Azolla’s long-term goal is to enable many industries to make things without disturbing nature.”

Hanacek said this collaboration will help the company accelerate the pathway to scalable production. 

This collaboration between the Agile BioFoundry and industry is one of five projects totaling over $3 million announced by the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct research and development needed to accelerate the U.S. biomanufacturing sector. The Agile BioFoundry is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office.