An old pair of denim jeans could become new lube to protect your knee.
Deakin University researchers in Victoria have unzipped a method to turn denim jeans into artificial cartilage to be used for joint reconstruction through advanced textile recycling methods.
Scientists Nolene Byrne and PhD candidate Beini Zeng have discovered how to dissolve denim and manipulate the remains into an aerogel which can be for cartilage bioscaffolding, water filtration and as a separator in advanced battery technology.
Dr Byrne said denim was made from cotton, which comprised cellulose, and liquid solvents were able to dissolve the denim and it could be “regenerated into an aerogel, or a variety of different forms”.
“Aerogels are a class of advanced materials with very low density, sometimes referred to as ‘frozen smoke’ or ‘solid smoke’ … they make excellent materials for bioscaffolding, absorption or filtration,” Dr Byrne said.
“When we reformed the cellulose, we got something we didn’t expect – an aerogel with a unique porous structure and nanoscopic tunnels running through the sample.”
Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials Research Fellow Wren Greene, who helped test the suitability of the aerogel materials, said there were commonalities with cartilage tissue.
“The remarkable similarity in the pore network structure of these aerogels and cartilage tissues enables these materials to replicate a special type of ‘weeping’ lubrication mechanism used by cartilage to protect against wear and damage,” Dr Greene said.
“We are now entering pilot-scale trials and look to be at commercial scale within three to five years with industry support.”
Dr Byrne said it would also help reduce textile waste which they’d been trying to address for years.
The findings are being considered for publication in a medical journal.