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German ex-students win 1.8 million euros for ‘unwettable’ yarn

By Simone Preuss


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The founders of Octogarn (from right to left), Sarah Neumann, Melanie Jakubik and Alexandra Plewnia receive 1.8 million euros from the federal funding programme ‘EXIST’. Alexander Prange and Stephanie Bienefeld, project managers at HNexist, and Octogarn project manager Robert Groten congratulate ex-students. Image: HSNR

Three former students of the German educational institutions Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences (HSNR) and the Aachen University of Applied Sciences have developed a new yarn called ‘Octogarn’ that is unwettable, meaning it stays dry even when it comes into contact with water.

This new invention could not only solve the problem of wet bathing clothes, but also make drying textiles unnecessary for instance. It is worth 1.84 million euros to the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection of Germany.

That is how much the ministry intends to invest through its funding programme 'EXIST - Start-ups from Science'. This money is to be used to develop a prototype by the end of the funding period in February 2026.

'Octogarn' is pollutant-free, sustainable, insulates against cold, breathable and reduces friction. It has a similar effect to the lotus effect, so it is water-repellent. But it has a decisive added value: it is unwettable. This means that if you completely submerge a textile made of this material in water, it remains dry," as per a press release.

How did ‘Octogarn’ come about?

Plewnia researched 'octo yarn' for about two years as part of her master degree at HSNR’s department of textile and clothing technology. As part of her elective subject Nanotechnology, she tackled the topic of functionality and the result is the novel yarn.

Plewnia won the university's ‘Battle of Ideas’ competition back in 2022 with her idea. The 20,000 euros in prize money went directly into registering the patent.

Since then, the team has expanded to include Sarah Neumann from Cologne, who completed her Master's degree in management and entrepreneurship at Aachen University of Applied Sciences while working. From November, the team will be completed by Melanie Jakubik from Duisburg, who studied the same as Plewnia and will also be responsible for the technology sector. A start-up also still has to be founded.

The team at Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences helped with the application process for EXIST.

"The combination of this high funding amount and the topic of sustainability is really unique at our university," Alexander Prange, HNExist project manager and HSNR's vice president for research and transfer, said. "It's also an investment in the future."

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.DE. Translation and edit from German into English: Veerle Versteeg.

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