Denim jeans could be transformed into artificial cartilage for joint reconstruction thanks to advanced textile recycling methods pioneered by IFM researchers.

Dr Nolene Byrne and PhD student Beini Zeng have discovered how to dissolve denim and manipulate the remains into an aerogel – a low density material with a range of uses including cartilage bioscaffolding, water filtration and use as a separator in advanced battery technology. Dr Byrne believes the sticky nature of the denim cellulose solution is likely responsible for the unique aerogel structure that resulted, something ideally suited for use as synthetic cartilage.

Apart from its medical applications, Dr Byrne said the denim recycling technique would also help contribute to the fight against textile waste.

“Textile waste is a global challenge with significant environmental implications, and we’ve been working for more than four years to address this problem with a viable textile recycling solution,” she said.