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Eco-friendly dyeing technology wins green challenge

A team from the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences has won the first prize at maiden ‘Green and Sustainable Chemistry Challenge’ for their environmentally friendly textile dyeing technology using nanocellulosic fibers. The idea involves the production of nano-structured cellulose and the use of nano cellulose in a sustainable dyeing process that significantly reduces the amount of wastewater and toxic chemicals.

Conventional dyeing processes require large amounts of water and create toxic effluent, or waste, that can be costly to treat. The wastewater from dye facilities often contains synthetic dyes and toxic chemicals, which leave substantial ecological footprints.

The process involves using cellulose to dye materials. During a homogenisation process, cellulose, a readily available natural polymer found in the primary cell wall of green plants, is converted into a hydro gel material consisting of nano cellulose fibers.

Compared to cotton fibers, nano cellulose fibers have 70 times more surface area with high reactivity, allowing for the efficient uptake and attachment of dye molecules. Dyed nano cellulose hydro gels are then transferred to a textile by a conventional printing method.

By this method the amount of water and dye auxiliaries such as inorganic salt and alkali can be significantly reduced. Most textile dyeing industries are located in developing countries in which the regulations and societal concerns for environmental issues are loose compared to those in developed countries.