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Chitosan fiber in the making — Photo: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
At first glance, the thread looks like a run-of-the-mill material. But the glossy white, strong and elastic strand is anything but ordinary.
This antibacterial material can stop the flow of blood and dissolves naturally within the human body. It can be used to produce plasters, dressings, surgical stuffing, surgical textiles and clothing for patients who suffer from skin conditions, like neurodermatitis, the German news agency DPA reports.
But the most fascinating aspect is what it's made of: the shell of shrimp, crab and other crustaceans.
"It is brilliant to find such a wonderful use for waste material," says Rolf-Dieter Hund, a director at the Institute of Textile Machinery and High Performance Material Technology in Dresden, Germany.
Shell-based waste is a by-product of the food industry. It is pulverized and reaches the institute's research team in the form of a powder that is dissolved in water and filtered. Trapped air is freed from this concoction under vacuum pressure and then squeezed through small nozzles. The resulting yarn is washed, dried and covered in protective film.
The machine that produces the textile can produce a shell-shocking 30 to 40 meters of the textile per minute. So it's easy to produce implants, such as those for abdominal wall constructions, cartilage and bone defects, which require little thread.
There's a catch for this shrimp yarn though: The fiber is very expensive, meaning you'll need to shell out the big bucks.