Knitting with wheat

I just read this in the NYT- looks like we will have another alternative fiber to try out in the near future.

A Wheat-Based Wool?

Wheat gluten, the protein that gives bagels their characteristic chewiness, may someday have a new role: as the basis for inexpensive, environmentally friendly textiles.

Narendra Reddy and Yiqi Yang of the University of Nebraska have come up with a way to make useful fibers from 100 percent wheat gluten. The protein forms chains that give the fiber tensile strength and other properties that are similar to wool and better than some other protein-based fibers.

The researchers dissolved gluten in a urea and sodium-sulfite solution, aging the mix for up to 36 hours at temperatures of 50 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Then it was extruded through a hypodermic needle into a bath of sodium sulfite and sulfuric acid, which served to coagulate the protein into strands. These were further drawn and then dried and annealed at about 260 degrees. The process is described in the journal Biomacromolecules.

The researchers found that the wheat gluten fibers had a resistance to breaking that was about three-quarters that of wool, but higher than fibers made from soy and corn protein. Wheat gluten also is similar to wool in a measurement called Young’s modulus, a gauge of stiffness. So the researchers say that if textiles could be made from wheat gluten, they should be as soft and flexible as those made from wool.

They would probably also cost far less. Wheat gluten is readily available worldwide at a cost of less than 50 cents per pound — at least one-tenth the cost of wool.

Too bad the article doesn't give any information about the fiber properties as they apply to knitters.

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