Liberty student receives grant to continue research in sustainable fabric

  • Luis Quijano received the idea for growing his own clothes while watching a TED Talk in preparation for a speech.
  • Quijano plans to start his PhD and continue his research in Australia.

Liberty University student Luis Quijano was recently awarded a $1,500 grant from the Center for Research & Scholarship Research-Intensive Course Awards to further his research with bacterial cellulose as a means of growing one’s own clothing.

Darren Wu, the associate director of the Center for Research & Scholarship said it was an easy decision to provide financial support to Quijano to help him with his research interests.

“Luis’ research project is creative, novel, cross-disciplinary and environmentally responsible,” Wu said in an email. “It has the potential of advancing the university’s reputation both nationally and internationally.”

With a major in fashion and a double minor in business and Chinese, Quijano has high hopes for his research in the coming years.

“By giving me the $1,500 grant, they’re allowing me to be one step closer to making my dream of using bacterial cellulose more of a reality within the commercial fashion industry,” Quijano said.

Quijano found that bacterial cellulose can be made into a leather-like material that is grown by using water, sugar, green tea and kombucha tea. The kombucha tea contains bacteria that, when fed with water, sugar and green tea, creates a leather-like material on the top of the surface in whatever container its in. It can help eliminate waste from other materials.

“People don’t realize how wasteful the fashion industry is,” Quijano said. “It’s also very receptive to color, which eliminates a lot of waste from current fashion status quo.”


Because the process is just starting to be explored, there are many aspects that have yet to be developed.


“It’s not waterproof, so it’s great for the runway, but not necessarily for everyday wear,” Quijano said. “We need to find ways to thicken the leather and grow it faster … On the bright side, it’s very durable and there’s a big potential to change a lot with sustainable textiles.”

Quijano said the manufacturing process is cut in half when using this system of growing clothing because the garment can be grown at home.

“It’s optimally grown at room temperature, so you can grow it at your own home,” Quijano said. “People only recognize the fashion industry as retail, but there’s so much more beyond that.”

It was during a forensics speech class at Liberty that Quijano first learned about the alternative uses of bacterial cellulose.

“I was giving an informative speech and learned about growing your own clothes from a TED talk,” Quijano said. “Before that, I didn’t realize that clothes could be grown; it really fascinated me.”

In the summer of 2017, Quijano used the Provost’s Award for Research Excellence for an internship to study alongside of researchers in Australia. He plans to continue his research after graduation in spring 2018.

“I would like to research internationally,” Quijano said. “When I graduate, I would immediately start my PhD and continue my research in Australia… Without the support of different faculty, I wouldn’t have been able to get as far as I have or continue the process.”

Associate Chair in the Family and Consumer Sciences Department Matalie Howard has been Quijano’s faculty mentor for the last three years. Howard said his passion and his thirst for knowledge will help him go far.

“He goes outside the parameters and just has a thirst for wanting to make a change,” Howard said. “He’s just serious about what he wants to do and he’s going for it … I’m expecting great things — I’m just so proud of him.”

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