U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


Main content area

Use of high molecular weight biopolymers to improve the properties of chrome-free leather

Taylor, M. M., Lee, J., Bumanlag, L. P., Brown, E. M.
Journal of the American Leather Chemists Association 2011 v.106 no.12 pp. 353
biopolymers, casein, dairy industry, denaturation, dithiothreitol, filling materials, gelatin, leather, mechanical properties, melting point, polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, product quality, sodium bisulfite, viscosity, whey, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate
In prior studies, we addressed the problems of poor leather quality, specifically “spring break” hides, by utilizing fillers produced from enzymatically-modified waste proteins, in particular those proteins from the leather and dairy industry (low quality gelatins and caseins or whey). In a more recent study, we applied low molecular weight enzymatically-modified gelatin/whey protein isolate (WPI) fillers to chrome-free or “wet white” leather. The leather was subsequently evaluated and it was found, as seen in previous studies, the mechanical properties of the treated leather were not significantly different from controls, but there was an improvement in the subjective properties, specifically in fullness. In this present study, we attempted not only to further improve subjective properties of chrome-free leather, but also to use a more economical whey protein concentrate (WPC)/gelatin combination as well as substituting sodium bisulfite (NaHSO3) for the more expensive dithiothreitol (DTT), which is used to denature whey prior to enzyme modification. High molecular weight products were prepared from enzymatically-modified WPC/gelatin, whose properties could be described as having high viscosities and melting points and whose SDS-PAGE gels showed that the WPC and gelatin had been extensively modified. These products were applied to chrome-free leather and subjective properties, in particular fullness, break, and overall evaluation, were better than seen previously. Furthermore, when NaHSO3 was substituted for dithiothreitol (DTT), products with a reproducible range of physical properties could be realized. Thus, by utilization of higher molecular weight WPC/gelatin products on chrome-free leather, we have not only made treatments that are more economical with subsequent improvement in leather quality but we also enhanced product preparation by utilization of NaHSO3 to denature the whey protein.