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In Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar’s much-loved sunburned country 1,200 people die of melanoma each year.
Many more are treated for skin cancers.
They are just some of the statistics that ensured widespread interest in the breakthrough research of Deakin PhD candidate, Tarannum Afrin, who is looking at environmentally friendly ways to turn bamboo into fibre for making clothes.
As Tarannum will tell you with an impressive enthusiasm for her research, one of bamboo’s many advantages is that it is 60 per cent better than cotton at blocking the sun’s UV rays.
Working in the Centre for Material and Fibre Innovation at the University’s Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (ITRI), Tarranum has now found the property that gives bamboo its unique sun-blocking characteristics.
Equally importantly, she is developing a method of processing the fibre that is not only environmentally responsible but allows the bamboo to retain its moisture wicking and antibacterial properties.
A former textile engineer who received a judges’ commendation at the University’s Three-Minute Thesis Competition, Tarranum says that bamboo was an emerging fibre for the textile and medical industries.
“Manufacturers have long claimed that bamboo products have a range of properties including excellent appearance and feel, natural antibacterial, UV-shielding and moisture-controlling characteristics,” she said.
“But many of these claims have not been proven scientifically.
“My research identified the component in bamboo which gives it its UV qualities and this research will be published shortly.
“When you take the bamboo plant and make fibre out of it there is also a challenge in retaining the structure of the bamboo which gives it its moisture wicking properties.”
Tarranum said while bamboo was attractive as an alternative natural eco friendly fibre for clothing the method of processing used chemicals and wasn’t friendly to the environment.
“The process we are developing allows us to process the plant into a fibre in an environmentally friendly way while retaining the UV qualities, the wicking and anti-bacterial properties,” she said.
Ms Afrin said bamboo fibres provided a promising alternative to other natural fibres like cotton and silk which were labour and resource intensive.
“Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world and grows to its maximum height in about three months and reaches maturity in three to four years,” she said.
“It can grow up to one metre over night and as a result spreads rapidly across large areas.
“The yield from an acre of bamboo is 10 times greater than that from cotton.”
Ms Afrin said bamboo also didn’t need pesticides, chemical weeding, insecticides, and fungicide to grow.
“Unlike cotton, bamboo needs no irrigation,” she added, enthusiastically.