Material World is a weekly roundup of innovations and ideas within the materials sector, covering news from emerging bio-materials and alternative leathers to sustainable substitutes and future-proof fibers.
Kintra Fibers, a materials science company developing a proprietary bio-based and biodegradable polyester, raised an $8 million Series A funding round led by H&M Group.
“Our investment in Kintra Fibers’ technology is a compelling opportunity to transform the manufacturing process and contribute towards a circular and climate-positive future. What impresses us is that Kintra Fibers’ technology leverages existing polyester production equipment for critical manufacturing processes, such as resin and yarn production,” Erik Karlsson, investment manager at H&M Group Ventures, said. “This capability to scale quickly and cost-effectively is a major advantage for Kintra Fibers as they work towards their goal of reducing the fashion industry’s environmental footprint.”
Investors in the round included Bestseller Invest FWD, Fashion for Good, New York Ventures, TRE Ventures, Tech Council Ventures and FAB Ventures, founded by Odile Roujol, former Lancôme CEO. Atlantic Records chairman and CEO Craig Kallman, RXBar cofounder Jared Smith, and Parade founder and CEO Cami Téllez were some of the round’s angel investors.
Kintra founding CEO Billy McCall said the startup will use the funding and partner support to “accelerate our research and development and our scaling timeline, with real-time feedback on our product from brands and their manufacturing partners.”
“Together, we can make a significant impact on the fashion industry’s environmental footprint and work towards a truly circular future,” he added.
With 250 kg, or 551 pounds, of resin produced to date on a pilot line, Kintra is using the new backing to expand to a commercial facility capable of producing hundreds of tons of resin. The company plans to produce its first ton of resin this year on the road to commercial scale.
Alissa Baier-Lentz, Kintra’s cofounder and COO, said the startup wants to help fashion “transition to be more nature-aligned,” noting how the molecular structure of the maker’s bio-inputs are “inherently biodegradable in an oxygen rich environment.”
Yarn testing demonstrating the strength and durability of Kintra’s product versus traditional polyester (PET) while it offers hand said to be 10 times softer. Testing also showed a stretch recovery of 10 to 15 percent. Kintra tested these properties in different yarn and fabric constructions, including knit fabrics made from air jet-textured and drawn-textured yarns, twill, satin and plain-woven fabrics made from fully-drawn yarns.
“We specifically chose molecular building blocks, or monomers, for our material that are extremely efficient to make, to derive from bio-sources. And when I saw derive from bio-sources, I’m talking about a glucose being put through a fermentation process and we work with industry partners that do that portion of the manufacturing system for us,” Baier-Lentz said. “A lot of [material] innovation happens when you have a sugar source and the bacteria is actually making the polymer. In our case, they’re just making that input, that chemical building block, and we make the polymer.”
By eliminating the need to blend with cotton or spandex, Kintra’s mono-material fabric construction allows for easier chemical and mechanical textile recycling. In contrast, traditional PET is usually blended with other fibers for performance.
Kintra’s preliminary cradle-to-gate environmental impact analysis comparing its raw material and resin production processes to PET found that its approach reduces emissions by 95 percent and consumes 20 percent less energy. Further energy savings in downstream production processes—such as yarn spinning, dyeing and finishing—could be possible as Kintra’s process requires lower temperatures versus PET.
Carbonwave, a developer of regenerative, plant-based advanced biomaterials from seaweed, closed a $5 million Series A led by Mirova, a Natixis Investment Managers affiliate focused on sustainable investment, with participation from Viridios Capital, Popular Impact Fund and Katapult Ocean.
“We believe that Carbonwave’s processing of Sargassum into high-value products is an excellent example of the Blue Economy at work, whilst also providing a unique solution to help address decarbonization,” said Simon Dent, Mirova’s head of blue investments.
The seaweed bloom upcycler has raised $12 million to date. The investment will help build large-scale cosmetics emulsifier production facilities in Puerto Rico, where its current R&D facility, has developed a soon-to-launch leather alternative from the floating Sargassum seaweed masses, the company said.
“In three short years, we’ve become the first company to build a scalable cascading biorefinery to create a commercially sustainable operation harnessing Sargassum into high-value products,” Geoff Chapin, cofounder and CEO of Carbonwave, said. “Support from our investors and partners has allowed us to catalyze our proprietary technology and manufacturing process to turn the Caribbean’s seaweed crisis into an economic opportunity and a climate solution. We are producing viable alternatives that redirect demand from fossil fuel-based products by cost-effectively developing a wide range of regenerative, low-carbon and plant-based alternatives that global industries are seeking to advance their sustainability and decarbonization initiatives, while contributing to the bio-circular economy.”
Sargassum seaweed mats have long been a feature of the North Atlantic Ocean, but over the past 12 years, warming ocean temperatures and pollution runoff have triggered a separate bloom—the largest seaweed bloom on the planet—in the Caribbean. Known as the great Atlantic Sargassum belt, this yearly bloom threatens regions from West Africa to the Gulf of Mexico, where it clogs bays and beaches, harms the local ecology and jeopardizes tourism. Accumulated seaweed mats on beaches and in landfills release vast amounts of climate-harming methane while decomposing.
Carbonwave said it’s the first company to chart a route for profitable Sargassum processing and has developed a proprietary method of extracting its biopolymers, which are more valuable than the single compounds when extracted separately. Carbonwave aso says it’s the first company to produce a wide range of Sargassum-based biomaterials that can displace fossil fuel-based products, including textiles.