A collaborative research project between De Montfort University (DMU) and Loughborough University has begun exploring new technologies for textiles and boosting sustainability of the industry.
Supported by sports garment firm Speedo as well as textiles firms, the research will continue until 2015.
Postgraduate students from each university are investigating the colouring and patterning of textiles using enzymatic and laser processing technologies and their combination.
Whilst lasers and enzymes have both been used in textiles before, their application and potential for use as a creative design tool is unexplored and this will be the focus of the research.
In the project enzyme technology will be developed for colour and 3D pattern design effects. The techniques used and effects achieved will be enhanced through the use of laser both pre and post enzyme treatment and by targeting specific fibres.
The research has potentially far reaching consequences for the sustainability of the textiles and clothing sector. Chemicals are routinely used in traditional dyeing, bleaching, printing and finishing techniques.
Large amounts of water and energy are used and effluent created in many processes. The use of enzyme and laser technology offers the prospect of substantial reductions in the use of chemicals, the amounts of water and energy used and effluent produced.
Substantial funding of over £200,000 has been received for the project from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Speedo, Camira Fabrics and Teresa Green Design are also supporting the project with fabric sourcing, design prototyping and concept evaluation.
At DMU Professor Jinsong Shen and Dr Edward Smith, from the School of Fashion and Textiles, are supervising student Chetna Prajapati in the Textiles Engineering And Materials (TEAM) research centre.
Professor Shen, co-ordinator of the project, said: “This is a good opportunity to bring biotechnology and laser technology together in developing innovative techniques for textile design. This kind of research could make a real difference to the textile industry and its sustainability.”
Dr Faith Kane, lecturer in Textiles at Loughborough is supervising student Laura Morgan together with Professor John Tyrer from the School of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering.
Dr Kane said: “We are very excited at the prospect of this research creating exciting new design opportunities with the benefit of delivering efficiency benefits and improved sustainability for our sector.”