The development of oil based polymers began with the advent of organic chemistry in the first half of the twentieth century, and since then there was no looking back. Synthetic and petroleum products are used in dyes, fibres, and even fabrics. But the increasing environmental laws against these products and growing landfill of non-biodegradable products are leading developments in technology that are in favour of protecting and conserving nature.
Producers and end consumers in today's world are aware of the harmful effects on ecology of the planet and recognize that petroleum and synthetic products are not inexhaustible. This necessity drove the invention of biotechnology, which incorporates replacing chemical process to biological ones. Industrial technology or white technology uses living organisms, organic substances, and chemical components of the organisms like enzymes in the production process.
White biotechnology can help achieve sustainability and protect the environment. One area in which industrial biotechnology can aid in developing environment friendly applications in the textile industry is wet processing. Enzymes are being used to provide solutions in dyeing processes since ages. The method of removing stains from woven fabrics using enzymatic starch is a well-known example of the use of white biotechnology in textile wet processing. In the 1950s microbe amylases were used for desizing processes for the first time, which are now commonly used in many textile industries.
Enzymes act as catalysts and exhibit better specificity, stereoselectivity, and can work under mild conditions. There are six basic types of enzymes used in the textile industry namely Oxidoreductases (which catalyze oxidation or reduce reactions), Transferases (which transfer a functional group), Hydrolases (catalyze the hydrolysis of different bonds), Lyases (which cleave different bonds), Isomerases (isomerizing changes within single molecules), and lastly Ligases (which joins two molecules with covalent bonds).
Use of enzymes for bio-processing has various benefits in contrast to traditional techniques and methods being used in the textile industry. Enzymes lower the activation energy of a reaction in order to increase the rate of a particular reaction. Because enzymes are like catalysts in a reaction they always remain intact. They also posses optimum temperature and optimum PH and hence are easy to control in any given reaction. The biggest advantage of using enzymes is that it is absolutely biodegradable and shuns the use of otherwise needed chemicals and toxic substances to perform textile processes. The use of enzymes aid in reducing the consumption of excess water, energy and also does not cause any pollution.
Cellulases have replaced the otherwise pumice stone using technique of stonewashing in denims. Another important application of enzymes in textile processing is in producing anti-pilling finish, which is believed to increase the quality of the fabric. Cellulases are used in processing machines leading to synergizing action which in turn reduces fibrils and give a smooth surface. This technique is also popularly known as bio-polishing and is employed in woven and knitted fabrics all around the globe.