Australian researchers are using crabs and shrimp to create odor-repellent fabrics for the automotive industry.

Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University say a natural biopolymer in crustaceans could create specialized fabrics to provide smart solutions for car interiors, resisting odors and staying cleaner longer.

RMIT School of Fashion and Textiles discipline head Rajiv Padhye says the school is working on various concepts for a number of automotive companies.

“These include automotive fabrics that have anti-odor and antimicrobial properties and anti-stain fabrics,” he says in a statement.

For the anti-odor research, various fragrance oils were applied to 100% polyester woven automotive fabric — the predominant fabric used in the industry — in combination with chitosan.

Chitosan, a natural biopolymer sourced from the structural element in the exoskeleton of crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp, was selected because of its film-forming ability and antimicrobial attributes.

The study found combining chitosan with the fragrance oil produced a durable fragrance finish in the fabric and gave it excellent antimicrobial properties.

Padhye tells Ward's in an email, RMIT has not yet discussed the chitosan findings with car companies.

“As far as the technology is concerned, we still want to fine-tune the product from a durability point of view, which is not far (from completion),” he says.

Padhye says he is involved in discussions with General Motors Co. on other projects.

RMIT wants to undertake research on reducing the consumption of fuel by running vehicle air-conditioners for shorter periods of time using phase-change materials in car designs.

“These materials will help to have a big impact on environmental issues,” he says.

RMIT is a part of the Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Automotive Technology (AutoCRC) created in December 2005, as part of a national strategy to secure Australia's position in the global automotive industry.

Its participants are eight leading vehicle and component manufacturers, two state governments and 10 research institutions, with a total research investment in research and training of A$100 million ($90 million) over seven years.