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Researchers invented a bio-based leather that’s 60x stronger than rival materials

Published Jun 24th, 2024 3:37PM EDT
man holding folds of leather
Image: prostooleh / Adobe

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Scientists have made a revolutionary breakthrough in bio-based materials. According to a study published in the journal Sustainability, the researchers were able to create a new pineapple leather that is much stronger than other materials.

The new leather is based on the fibers of discarded pineapple leaves, and the researchers say it is perfectly comparable to the real thing. It also outperformed other strong and sustainable materials like mushroom-based leather and could be used to produce large-scale items like clothing, bags, and shoes.

Researchers at Thailand’s Mahidol University created the new pineapple leather, which they call PALF. It is 100 percent bio-based pineapple leaf fiber leather. According to the researchers’ study, they used natural rubber as an adhesive material to hold the leaf fibers together, avoiding the chemical treatment or additional plastics often needed for bio-based materials like this.

That alone is a significant step forward for bio-based materials. Being able to create leather out of sustainable materials will prove a more economically viable alternative to traditional leather, which is harvested from animals. The researchers believe their discovery could revolutionize the leather industry and contribute to a more environmentally friendly future for that part of the material world.

These types of animal alternatives are nothing new, of course. They have always come with their own significant challenges, though. “Vegan leather,” as some have called the bio-based material, has previously relied heavily on plastics for its production. So, while it might be better for animals in the long run, it’s much harder on the planet and has a much shorter lifespan. This pineapple leather, though, doesn’t suffer from those same issues.

Instead, because it doesn’t use any plastics—and only relies on natural rubber as an agent for adhesion, the PALF is more sustainable and better for the planet. Further, the researchers used natural stains from coffee and carrots to showcase how the new leather material could be colored without relying on the toxic chemicals used in commercial tanning.

Unfortunately, pineapple leather does show a lower tensile strength than traditional animal leather. However, when compared to other existing commercial leather alternatives, PALF proved to be 60 times stronger than those other bio-based materials. Scientists have been creating new materials for years. This new pineapple-based leather is just the latest in what will undoubtedly continue to be a growing industry.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.