Science Dressed Up in Milk Bio-fibre

Cleopatra allegedly bathed in it, kids soak their cereal in it and Anke Domaske turns it into bio-fabric that is fit for any kind of textile processing - milk

The German entrepreneur Anke Domaske has had a passion for microbiology and science ever since she was 10-years-old. Her great grandmother was a fashion designer. For Domaske, it would not be too far-fetched to search for a career in either one of these fields, but she chose not to choose and instead managed to combine both science and fashion in her company QMilch, where she spins milk into threads of bio-fabric.

What drove her towards this idea was the weak immune system of a family member and the urgent need to find a fabric that wasn’t treated with chemicals and would be smooth and kind to the skin. During her research, she found that in the 1930’s an attempt was made to create fabric out of casein – proteins found in milk, but the procedure took up to 60 hours and involved too much chemical treatment, encouraging Domaske to find another way to make the milk protein-based fabric. She needed something that would suit her specific and high demands.

“It’s like a pasta machine, you have flour, add water and put it into a machine that kneads everything, like pastry”

Her approach, which works using milk by-products or the parts that are not fit for consumption, was born QMilch receives its milk proteins from surrounding dairy factories. These are then dried and made into a protein powder, mixed with water and “baked” at an energy efficient 80°C for two short minutes. Finally the mass is formed and shaped through a perforated plate and coiled as finished milk bio-fabric. The manufacturing process leaves no waste product whatsoever.

“It’s like a pasta machine, you have flour, add water and put it into a machine that kneads everything, like pastry,” says the inventor.

When Domaske started QMilch there wasn’t much financial support on offer from her university or any other investors, so she had to put together a laboratory for roughly 200€ and compromise on several things.

“I didn’t have a [proper] thermometer so I got one of those huge thermometers for boiling down jam,” she says.

Today, only two years after she started, her company is well-established in the fabric industry and her “fibre made of white gold” is a highly desired working material. QMilch has six employees, 7 including founder Anke Domaske, who is still a part of every aspect of the development and production.

“I’m still very involved and I hope it stays that way because I enjoy it very much. Although sometimes my team teases me, saying soon I’ll have someone else stirring my water.”

"We found that women and men are equally interested. I have had a lot of requests to design a men’s line, they want underwear, casual clothes and ties”

When people hear about what QMilch does, their first reaction is surprise or even irritation but soon after that they want to know how it’s done, touch the fabric and smell it.

“That’s the usual course of reaction,” Domaske says. “The fabric is very similar to silk, in both haptic and appearance.”

At the moment, a kilo of QMilch fabric costs 25€ , less than it’s akin fabric – silk, and it can easily be dyed any colour. Yet so far only bigger companies buy the smart cloth as, research has shown, there is no particular target group for it.

The bio fabric can basically be used in anything that is a textile, from wallpapers and carpets to socks, undergarments and bed sheets, even in the automobile industry. Due to its anti-allergenic nature and tenderness to the skin, Domaske is working on introducing it to the medical sector and planning a fashion line to come out next year. Until then however, she will have to make production plans, keep a keen eye on finances, and negotiate with machine manufacturers always weighing reason against her trusted gut feeling.

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Gerhard Spießberger
12 Nov, 2012 Gerhard Spießberger
Excelent Idee and marvelous writing
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Mirka
05 Nov, 2012 Mirka
I can only say that I really like your idea. Awesome!
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