Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Nata de coco shoes, surgical thread, and wallet, too.


Dr Abe V Rotor
A Tribute to a Filipino Inventor
The uppers of these pairs of shoes are made from Nata de Coco leather. The author is shown with the late Amparo Arambulo (right) who developed Nata de Coco as Substitute of Leather, her thesis for BS Biology, at St Paul University QC. Note nata de coco leather sheets at the foreground.
Now, this one is for the Book of Guinness Records: shoes made from nata de coco.

Nata is a culture of Leuconostoc mesenteroides, a bacterium that forms a mass of gelatinous material from a medium of sugar and acetic acid. When thick enough, this layer is harvested for dessert or fruit salad mix. This time it is made into laminate, a leather-like material.

At St. Paul University QC, Dr. Anselmo S. Cabigan and his thesis advisee, the late Miss Amparo Arambulo, developed shoes made from nata laminate. The laminate is actually compressed nata de coco, dried and layered like plywood, then subjected to standard tanning procedure. It is cut and made into shoes. Nata laminate is stronger than leather, according to results of a test conducted by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). It also gives a good finish like real leather.

Nata laminate is also a healthy and environment-friendly packaging material. It easily decomposes without leaving any trace of harmful residue - unlike plastic, which in the first place is synthetic and non-biodegradable. Nata offers a solution to plastic materials accumulating in garbage, and scattered all around.

In another thesis research, nata was made into surgical thread. Again, since nata is a natural product, it is soluble and absorbed in our system without any harmful effect to health. Thus, it is a good substitute for expensive commercial surgical threads.

"You can have nata shoes and eat them, too." I said jokingly to my friend. "You can have nata for writing and reading," my friend Dr Cabigan added to my joke. Nata is used to make drums, speakers, wallets. The list continues with other possible uses: belt, diploma sheepskin, parchment paper, thread and rope."

It's true - nata is a versatile material that can save animals, especially those in the endangered list. And save the world from being buried by a mountain of plastic wastes. ~

AUTHOR'S NOTE: The technology of nata growing in culture medium is ancient and universal in process. It is a microbial process, a kind of farming with a bacterium Leuconostoc mesenteroides, and a complex of other microorganisms, including Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Acetobacter aceti.   It is Nature's microbiological chemistry which man has learned to produce useful materials, vinegar, herbal tea, and of course, nata as food. The innocula grow on a wide range of substrates. If it is pineapple, the product is nata de piƱa. It is possible that other countries have nata products from their indigenous fruits and nuts. Biologically, the process is nature's way of disposing organic residues by converting them into more stable forms preparatory to their final degradation, ultimately returning to their elemental forms ready for the next cycle.

The encapsulated bacterium is the main agent in the process, leaving its gelatin or cellulose shell to form layers and thick mass which is the nata. This is made into mats and when finally cured becomes laminate, firm and soft (even after a few years), cool to the feet, and other tests for leather. There are yet many other tests were not done or completed.

The nata "leather" is produced by gradual pressure and drying until a leatherlike consistency is attained. This undergoes curing and tanning, and dyeing like leather. Which is then made as uppers of shoes and slippers, cut into belt, surgical thread, and even fabric substitute.

This work is ahead by more than ten years of one of Time magazine's featured of inventions in 50 Best Inventions of 2010 (November 22, 2010, page 53, Invention No. 15 BioCouture).

The untimely death of the inventor is a great loss. Had she lived longer she could have proceded in pursuing this pioneering discovery. Nata surgical thread was invented by another student at SPU the following year. ~


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