WHAT IS MATERIALS SCIENCE?
BY michael doughty
Materials science - not material science - is a fundamental part of hylo’s innovation.
What is materials science?The field of materials science covers the design and discovery of new materials. Materials Science incorporates elements of physics, chemistry and engineering and its basis is studying the interplay between the structure of materials, the processing methods to make those materials and, importantly, the resulting material properties.
hylo uses materials science to replace materials reliant on fossil fuels with equivalent performing, better for planet alternatives.
WhyThe sportswear industry and hylo as a company has an enormous challenge to solve:
Our global reliance on fossil fuels and finite material sources.
Sneaker production is exceptionally carbon intensive, accounting for approximately 1.4% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Air travel is responsible for 2.5%.
These materials, used en masse in sportswear, have extremely intensive production methods and also very limited end of life solutions - but they’re cheap, scalable in production and hardwearing. So as a company, when you’re looking to create a product that both performs, lasts, can be produced at scale and deals with some of these challenges, you need viable and critically scalable solutions on the table.
We have been working for years with different mills, labs, factories, universities to understand which materials are out there that can replicate the performance, durability and cost of these hugely popularised materials like polyester and nylon.
At hylo, before we commit to designing a new product, we start to think about how that product is conventionally made and with what materials. We then look at the properties of these materials and what innovations are out there that could match these properties.
An example of this in our footwear is PLA (polylactic acid), a thermoplastic polymer derived from renewable resources such as corn starch or sugar cane. It’s a high performing bio-plastic that is strong, durable and comfortable and we use it in our uppers, instead of polyester. Through our research, we are left feeling very excited about the advancements in materials science but also facing compromises. We normally have to accept a dose of reality when learning about some of the limiting factors such as timelines or costs.
Nothing is ever perfect or finished. As a company, we have a clear culture of test, fail, learn, evolve, repeat.
We operate with a clear sense of urgency when it comes to our risk appetite on innovation - because we know that there is not much time to reverse our course.
One of many potential solutions is to give new, better materials the opportunity to become major players in the future of sportswear.
Our innovation is our activism.