From a childhood fascination to an emerging research study, PhD candidate Tarannum Afrin of Deakin’s Center for Materials and Fibre Innovation in Australia is working to discover the property that gives bamboo it’s UV protective properties. Growing up, Afrin was surrounded by bamboo gardens and heard much about the medicinal properties of bamboo used in traditional medicine. Now she’s working hard to pin down exactly what gives bamboo fibres their moisture-controlling and antibacterial properties.
Afrin’s credentials are certainly enough to make this study impressive – a degree in textile technology from Dhaka University in Bangladesh, a Master’s degree at Manchester Metropolitan University in Britain, a former textile engineer in Britain followed by work at a Sydney garment manufacturer. With a strong knowledge of textiles and a love of bamboo, Afrin is posed to bring bamboo from an emerging fabric to THE fabric that manufacturers will want for its eco-friendliness and protective qualities.
Much of this goal is aimed at offering bamboo clothes that protect its wearer from the sun’s harmful UV rays to help prevent melanoma. In the United States, melanoma is currently the 6th most common cancer for men and the 7th most common for women. According to the American Cancer Society, the incidence rate for melanoma has more than doubled in the past 20 years. And according to the Melanoma Center, the world’s highest incidence of melanoma is in Afrin’s homeland of Australia where 1200 Australians every year die from the skin cancer. Risk factors include a proximity to the equator, areas of ozone layer depletion and a fair-skinned immigrant population. Afrin’s research could make protective fabrics more widely available and more readily endorsed.
“We know bamboo is 60 per cent better than cotton at blocking the sun’s UV rays and my research has identified the component in bamboo which gives it these qualities,” Ms Afrin says.
While the FTC and other regulators need more proof of these qualities, Afrin is set on providing concrete evidence to back up manufacturers and to help develop new processing techniques for bamboo fibers.
Conducted using Asian-originated bamboo grown in Queensland, Afrin claims that her research has identified the component that gives bamboo its UV-protection quality. Comparing raw bamboo with common fibers such as cotton, 100% cellulose and commercially available bamboo yarns, she found that bamboo had the best UV-blocking ability among the samples and was at least 60% more effective than cotton.
“We are now working to develop an eco-friendly manufacturing model to process bamboo plants into fibre without losing their unique properties,” she says. “We are using bio-enzymes and mechanical force to disintegrate the lignin and hemicellulose from the cellulose, which is a big challenge because our bamboo species is nearly 30 per cent lignin, a cement-like gummy material.”
Afrin is also excited about the many environmental benefits that come from simply growing bamboo. It requires no pesticides, little irrigation, and is hearty enough to grow in poor soil. Bamboo crops could also aid in the fight against skin cancer by helping keep harmful Carbon Dioxide out of the air. A hectare of bamboo can absorb up to 100 tons of C02!
Visit Green Earth News section on Bamboo & The Environment for more information on this amazingly green crop!