Thanks to biotechnology we are able to improve the footwear properties and materials, apart from making shoes biodegradable and healthy for the consumer
The increasing technology innovations allow the incorporation of a wider variety of substances and materials into everyday items like footwear with the aim of improving their properties and provide them with an added value while ensuring the minimum damage to the Environment.
For instance, the implementation of nanomaterials into insoles or footwear may provide antibacterial resistance, electrical or insulating properties and prevent bad odour. They can also be used for the preparation of polymeric materials with a lower biodegradation time than conventional materials after the end-of-life of a product.
In addition to the obvious advantages brought about by the increasing variety of consumer goods with innovative properties, it is to be born in mind other possible effects on the users that may affect their health, such as allergies due to contact of materials with the skin.
The research lines on biotechnology are closely related to the materials used in the manufacture of footwear products:
BIODEGRADATION OF POLYMERS
Polymeric materials, plastics, textiles, and especially leather are the main components of footwear, as well as the greatest pollutants after their end-of-life. One way to reduce the pollution caused by footwear waste is using more biodegradable polymers. In the case of leather, using tanning agents other than Chromium may reduce the time needed for the material to decompose, which normally takes around 25-40 years. Within this research line, INESCOP develops equipment and methodologies to measure the percentage of biodegradation for polymeric materials in order to help the industries produce more environmentally friendly materials.
CYTOTOXICITY OF MATERIALS AND IN VITRO TESTS
Within this research line, some projects related to the study of the effects on health of materials and compounds used in the footwear manufacture are being developed. For this purpose, cultured human skin cells are used as the basis for the performance of in vitro tests. This way, there is no need to use laboratory animals and valuable information can be obtained when evaluating the biological response to different chemicals, nanoparticles, materials, etc. used in materials and components of footwear. This information is highly useful to obtain consumer goods that, apart from enabling the advantages of material technology, are able to ensure their quality and safety to users.
MICROBIOLOGY – ANTIMICROBIAL AGENTs
More and more shoes with materials including new functional properties are entering the market. Currently, there is an increasing demand for functionalised materials related to the antimicrobial effect. An accurate assessment of the effectiveness of these materials requires methodologies and precise testing. In this sense, INESCOP develops a research line on aspects regarding their effect, safety, mode of action, targets at which they act, etc. and also different compounds with antimicrobial effect, using to this end both standardised tests and its own methodologies to ensure to companies the reliability of the products intended to the market