What are the key innovations in biobased synthetics?

Synthetic materials, including polyesters, polyamides and elastanes, account for 65% of all fibers produced worldwide*. They offer great versatility of use, but to meet the trajectory of CO2 emissions reduction, the use of fossil resources must be drastically reduced. Synthetics derived from renewable resources appear to be an interesting way of addressing these impacts, while offering similar characteristics to conventional synthetics.

The characteristics of bio-sourced synthetics

Bio-sourced synthetics are obtained from biopolymers, produced by processing renewable natural resources, and and therefore have a lower carbon footprint than synthetics derived from petrochemicals. The prefix “bio” does not mean that they are made from organic raw materials, but that they are made from renewable resources, as opposed to fossil resources.

The molecules are extracted from biomass to form the polymers needed to develop these synthetic materials. The structure of a biopolymer is similar to its oil-based equivalent, it is just the raw material that is different. They can be used to replace or complement fossil fuel resources in compositions.  

Polyurethanes, polyesters, polyamides, and resins can be produced from corn starch, castor oil, sugar cane, apple or grape waste, to which various additives are added.  

Synthétiques biosourcés

The proportion of renewable material can vary from one material to another, and no minimum threshold is specified to use the label. Certifications, such as OK Biobased or USDA Certified Biobased Product, can be used to confirm the biomass content and percentage.  

Several typologies are found in the collections, including:


This Polylactic Acid, is one of the oldest PLAs, developed from 37% renewable resources such as corn and sugar cane. Its qualities make it soft, breathable, crease-free and with a good natural elasticity.

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This PLA, is developed from cane sugar, and enables more saturated and resistant colors than traditional PLAs. PlaX™ is chemically recyclable and tested for accelerated biodegradability.

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It is a 100% recyclable PLA, derived from non-GMO corn, whose performance has been optimized for for better dye hold and increased breathability. Thanks to NOOCYCLE® technology, chemical recycling with non-toxic solvents, the fiber is separated from any type of contaminant (material mix, pigments, etc.) to recover a virgin fiber.

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It is a polyamide polymerized from castor oil. Its breathability, fast-drying properties and good elasticity make it increasingly popular in athleisure and everyday knitwear.

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There are different types of biopolymers, and they can be biodegradable and non-biodegradable. They represent an interesting alternative to fossil fuel resources. However, their development can compete with agricultural or biofuel production. Agricultural by-products should therefore be favoured in the production of biopolymers. 

Biofabrication, CO2 capture, new generations of synthetics

In addition to the advances made by synthetics derived from renewable resources, new processes and fiber types are being developed in R&D laboratories.

Matières synthétiques

Spiber has perfected Brewed Protein™ technology to develop protein fibres in the laboratory through the fermentation of plant-based ingredients.

The specific components of the materials are analysed to form a database, and then DNA and amino acid sequences are designed to replicate the characteristics and obtain the desired functions. An especially designed fermentation process using micro-organisms is then used to transform the protein structure. The resulting polymer is extracted and purified before being processed into fibre, yarn and film.

Brewed Protein™ fibres have been tested to biodegrade in seawater, and Brewed Protein™ fabrics disintegrate completely in soil.

The production plants in Thailand and the US lie close to the farmland where the raw materials are grown (sugar cane in Thailand and corn in the US) according to sustainable agriculture principles. The long-term aim is to use agricultural by-products to limit the impact on the soil.

Another significant step forward is LanzaTech cutting-edge technology transforms pollution into a resource for new fibers.

This American company converts emissions capture from steel mills into next-generation PET using a biotechnology process.

LanzaTech has identified naturally occurring micro-organisms that can process carbon from exhaust gases.

Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen from manufacturing plants are directed into a bioreactor filled with these micro-organisms. The gas is metabolised into ethanol, chemically converted into monoethylene glycol (MEG) and then copolymerised into PET, for new-generation polyesters that are 100% recyclable.

Recyclage des matières

*Source Materials Market Report, Textile Echange, 2023

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