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Published: 03 July 2021

By Andy Ross

Natural dyeing - the 21st Century way

The textile industry around the world is the second biggest polluter of water resources, mainly through the dyeing processes used to colour our clothes. 

In a recent study it was found that the industry is the second biggest polluter of water and the fashion industry produces 20% of the globe's wastewater. It is a Really Big Problem and so scientists are looking at new ways to colour fabrics, including the use of bacteria.

For the first time apparently, all seven colours of the rainbow have been created in a lab using bacteria. Scientists working at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have managed to make the colours by engineering a common bacteria, Escherichia coli, to first of all make the compounds and then to secrete them in quantities large enough to be useful. The charts above show the technical aspects of the process and the colours KAIST managed to achieve. 

While it is not an industrial quantity of any use yet, the process is promising and we could see not only our clothing and fabrics dyed like this but also foods, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products making use of the engineering process. If you are interested in learning more you can read about the project here.

 

Image courtesy of KAIST.