Making Nylon from Solar Energy

Solar Nylon Image

Source: https://www.energymatters.com.au/renewable-news/solar-textiles-award-em5987/

1. Identify a sustainability problem: Large-scale, unsustainable nylon production

Category: Energy

The fashion industry, especially the fast fashion segment of the industry, widely uses nylon (6 million tons/year). Nylon production is highly unsustainable as it’s a very energy-intensive process based on petroleum. In fact, nylon scores worse on the Higg Materials Sustainability Index than 79% of other fabric types. With growing demand for nylon, there’s a need to reduce the negative impacts nylon production has on the environment.

2. Technology: Solar Nylon

Article: “Tandon Professor Earns Award for Eco-Friendly Textile Manufacturing”, Washington Square News (https://www.nyunews.com/2017/04/11/tandon-professor-earns-award-for-eco-friendly-textile-manufacturing/)

  • The article discusses a technology developed by an NYU professor called “solar nylon”, which harnesses the sun’s energy to create a textile similar to traditional fossil fuel-based nylon
  • The technology uses solar energy, plant waste and water to produce the fabric and the process is akin to that used to create solar fuels
  • The cost of production of this nylon alternative is expected to be “inexpensive” or at least not more expensive than current nylon production
  • Not only does the textile use less energy and release less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere due to its renewable energy source, it also has the ability to directly absorb CO2
  • The technology is still in its early stages and can only produce 1 kg of textile per day, so scaling of production is a large focus point going forward

I also used the following source: “Solar Textiles Project Wins Global Change Award”, Energy Matters (https://www.energymatters.com.au/renewable-news/solar-textiles-award-em5987/)

Tags: #solarenergy #sustainablefashion #sustainablemanufacturing #sustainability #sustainabletechnology #cleantech

3. Organizational stakeholders who will use the technology

There are two main “users” for this technology. At the production level, textile manufacturers would be the ones to use this technology, as they’d create the solar nylon out of its raw materials at their facilities. High-level manufacturing managers at these manufacturing facilities would have to be won over to integrate this technology, but manufacturing workers would be the ones to actually use the technology.

Additionally, buyers of nylon (e.g., apparel companies) would also be users of this technology. The design team of such a company would have to know about the textile to design their products with this fabric in mind, the sourcing team would have to procure this textile, and then their manufacturing facilities would actually create the products out of the solar nylon.

4. Three steps in deploying this technology

The deployment strategy depends on whether the creators of the technology want to sell the technology to existing nylon producers or set up their own company to produce the solar nylon themselves and sell to buyers directly. For the former strategy, they’d need to take the following steps.

  1. Conduct further lab work to scale up production of the material
  2. Educate nylon fiber producers on the technology (costs and benefits) in the hopes of eventually selling to them directly
  3. Educate buyers of nylon on the technology in the hopes of them pressuring their suppliers to produce solar nylon for them

If the creators wanted to produce the textiles themselves, steps to deploying the technology would be:

  1. Conduct further lab work to scale up production of the material
  2. Build relationships with and educate buyers of nylon (e.g., apparel companies) on the technology (costs and benefits)
  3. Set up the first manufacturing facility for producing solar nylon in bulk to sell to nylon buyers
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