FIT Genspace Scholar Jonathan Mateer cutting out fabric for shoe design


Mateer’s goal was to find a way to create an impact-absorbing material using biodegradable components. While similar products are in development this project sought to make the biofoam non-Newtonian, so that it becomes stronger when pressure is applied.

Using natural household products, Mateer created a firm foam that withstands 40 pounds of pressure—enough to be used in a shoe. He will be testing it further to see how it reacts to heat, water, and excess weight, and believes this foam could replace the EVA foam (ethylene-vinyl acetate, a non-biodegradable type of polyethylene) currently used in footwear.


The project was a success: Mateer’s biofoam, made of simple, safe ingredients, is biodegradable and as functionally capable as traditional EVA foam (which is not biodegradable). While the foam created did not achieve non-Newtonian status, it is a great first step in finding an alternative to traditional impact-absorbing foam.

closeup of biodesigned material
FIT and visiting students from MIT test products with computer at the Advanced Fibers and Fabrics workshop at the Brooklyn Navy Yards

Status Update

Joanne Arbuckle, deputy to the president for Industry Partnerships and Collaborative Programs at FIT, said that research projects like these are key to bringing the fashion industry back to New York. “The future of fashion is really in these textiles,” Arbuckle said. “If we don’t develop these things, there isn’t going to be fashion industry here.”

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