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High-tech clothing company turns to black algae and hemp

EcoNote | July 11, 2022 | By:

Photo: Vollebak

Black algae and hemp are two of the most futuristic materials on the planet, says London-based high-tech clothing startup Vollebak. The company has just launched hoodies and sweatpants made entirely out of these materials, which, the company says, produce oxygen, clean up carbon dioxide and can even clean up soil and air after a nuclear meltdown.

Black algae, according to the company, could replace one of the most harmful yet invisible substances on the planet, carbon black, a pigment derived from petroleum and used in the ink in a pen or car tires. The company is seeking to reinvent the way black color is made by using black algae, which naturally grows in ponds using sunlight and carbon dioxide. 

The second technology the company is using derives from hemp, a much misunderstood material that, in fact, has an ancient past. With four times the durability and eight times the tensile strength of cotton, the Egyptians used it to haul rocks when they were building the pyramids; the Vikings relied on hemp ropes, sails, and nets for their voyages; and Chinese warlords built their armor from it.

From an environmental perspective every ton of hemp produced removes 1.6 tons of CO2 from the air. It kills weeds, purifies soil, grows fast and will thrive almost anywhere in the world. It requires zero pesticides and very little water to cultivate. As for clothing, a single hemp fiber can grow to over 4 meters, which makes it soft yet strong.

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