Microbial Cellulose Fabric

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The DMS textile group and bio group will work together to create sewable fabric from microbial cellulose, cultured from Gluconacetobacter xylinus (previously known as Acetobacter xylinum), B. subtilis, or other suitable microbe. The resulting fabric would be used to create wearable garments.


  • Establish test colonies of Gluconacetobacter xylinus
    • Colony 1: attempt to isolate and grow a tea-based strain from Kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast).
    • Colony 2: attempt to isolate apple based strain from a raw apple
    • Colony 3: attempt to isolate grape/wine based strain grown in coconut water
    • Colony 4: attempt to isolate apple based strain from unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
  • Use UV light to generation mutations
  • Identify strain best suit for large scale celluose pellicle generation
  • Open-sourced growth medium in which to culture microbial celluose
  • Open-sourced process for turning cellulose pellicles into fabric, including dying or coloring
  • Wearable garments made from the fabric (possible as an entry in 2012 recycled fashion show (Apr 21-22)


Gluconacetobacter xylinus is a non-pathogenic (non-disease-causing) bacteria that is ubiquitous in the human environment, found in soil and fruit. It is present in tea and fruit juice drinks found in any grocery store. It has been used by humans for over 1,000 years for agricultural purposes including creating vinegar and making paper. Modern uses include growing cellulose for artificial skin grafts, soft tissue replacement, artificial blood vessels, as a food source, for high-strength papers, acoustic membranes, and as a substrate for OLEDs. Close contact, even consumption of the bacteria has no known ill effects. Gluconacetobacter xylinus has a CDC Biohazard rating level of BSL-1, the minimum risk level for biological materials.[1][2]


  • 2011 Dec - Initial research into methods and materials required. Gluconacetobacter xylinus looks like the best bet. It's safe, easy to grow, easy to mutate using UV light, and old enough to avoid proprietary claims.
  • 2012 Jan 2 - Identified potential strains of interest. Learned that we can obtain research samples commercially but most come with non-commercial use licensing agreements or other "intellectual property" type encumberances that would prevent eventual open-sourcing of our research. Looks like we'll need to grow our own starting from natural sources.
  • 2012 Jan 5 - Created three test cultures, one seeded with coconut water, one with an organic apple, and one with raw Kombucha tea. Please do not pick up or agitate the containers.
  • 2012 Jan 10 - The Kombucha tea growth medium now shows a well formed 1/8" think pellicle across the entire surface of the container. The coconut and apple mediums are clouded and have scattered spots of floating material that may be cellulose.
  • 2012 Jan 12 - Started a fourth growth medium seeded with unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
  • 2012 Jan 19 - Kombucha tea culture has been designated as strain dms-k0001. An 8x10 inch tray was prepared with a growth medium composed of 1.5 liters water, 30 g molasses, 0.15 g citric acid. Strain dms-k0001 was introduced into the growth medium at 22:00. The Coconut culture continues to show slow but steady growth and has been designated as strain dms-c0001. The apple culture has failed to show significant cellulose growth. The small amount of cellulose that formed in the apple culture was transported to a new growth medium based on molasses and citric acid. The vinegar growth medium has clouded but is not showing signs of cellulose growth yet. It will be monitored for another week.
  • 2012 Jan 24 - Apple strain culture is contaminated by mold and still shows no significant cellulose growth. Destroyed this culture. Coconut strain still hopeful but the cellulose is not forming a solid pellicle.
  • 2012 Jan 26 - 8x10 inch growth medium has a thin but distinct pellicle covering entire surface. A pellicle from the smaller DMS-K0001 culture was removed for drying. Samples of DMS-K0001 were prepared for long-term storage in the fridge. Mutations of the coconut and kombucha strains were created by exposure to a 1.3 watt multi-band UVA, UVB, UVC lamp for varying periods of time.

Mutations of Coconut Strain DMS-C0001

Strain UV Exposure
DMS-C0002 2 seconds
DMS-C0003 3 seconds
DMS-C0004 4 seconds
DMS-C0005 5 seconds
DMS-C0006 6 seconds

Mutations of Kombucha Tea Strain DMS-K0001

Strain UV Exposure
DMS-K0002 2 seconds
DMS-K0003 3 seconds
DMS-K0004 4 seconds
DMS-K0005 5 seconds
DMS-K0006 6 seconds
  • 2012 Jan 31 - 8x10 inch growth medium pellicle is contaminated by mold. I removed the pellicle and replaced the setup, hopefully with cleaner material. The air in the room may not be clean enough to grow really large pellicles without adding an air filtering mechanism. The other thing that's clear is we'll need some way to heat the medium to 30 C to get fast enough growth to make pellicle growth practical. Several smaller cultures of the mutations are beginning to show cellulose formation.
  • 2012 Feb 9 - 8x10 inch growth medium continues to grow too slowly and shows indications of another mold infection. A new, purpose-made growing chamber is being devised, based on a 4 liter Pyrex growing dish that will be enclosed in a larger, heated container with integral air filtering.
  • 2012 Feb 23 - Completed new prototype incubator consisting of a large transparent plastic container. Inside, supported on wood blocks is a 4 liter rectangular Pyrex dish approximately 10 x 14 inces. Attached to the bottom of the pyrex dish is an 8 watt surface mount heater. A digital thermometer was attached to the exterior of the plastic container with a submersible sensor in the growth medium attached to short lead. Growth medium was created with 3 liters of water, 60 g of molasses, 40 g of raw cane sugar, and 0.3 g of citric acid. The medium was seeded with DMS-K0001 bacteria at 23:00.
  • 2012 Mar 1 - Harvested cellulose from the 2nd generation incubator (the 8 x 10 inch metal pan). Filtered and stored about 1 liter of bacteria in growth solution for future use. The 3rd generation, enclosed and heated incubator is still imperfect. The heat provides a faster growth rate, however it causes evaporation of the water in the growth medium. The vapor condenses on the top of the enclosure and drips back into the solution, breaking up the pellicle before it can fully form. We brainstormed ideas for a membrane or baffle to collect the condensation and return it safely to the growth medium. I hope to source parts and work on this during the coming week. We also shot a 100x microscope photo of the 1st generation pellicle using a camera phone. (see photos section)


First generation incubator
Coconut, apple, and tea cultures
Second generation incubator
Mutant strain cultures
Third generation incubator
Pellicle from 2nd generation incubator
100x photo of 1st generation pellicle


  1. CDC Lab Biosafety Levels
  2. Gluconacetobacter xylinus biohazard rating


Use for fabric/clothing

Isolation from Natural Sources

Growth Process

Strain Info

Properties of Bacterial Cellulose and Production Methods