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Revolutionary eco-textile dye in the making
Mar '09
Dr Richard Blackburn
Dr Richard Blackburn
A team of scientists, led by Dr Richard Blackburn at the University of Leeds, have developed a unique dyeing process that creates colored polymers inside textile fibres via a patented catalytic dyeing process as part of spin-out company DyeCat Ltd.

Spun out of the University of Leeds in 2006, DyeCat was founded by three academics from the University, Dr Richard Blackburn, Dr Patrick McGowan and Professor Chris Rayner. It is the unique combination of skills of the founders that has led to the invention of the DyeCat process.

Fibre2fashion spoke to Dr Richard Blackburn to understand the research undertaken by his team of scientists. He said, “Simple colourless molecules, some derived from natural starting materials, are linked together by a novel catalyst, and the colour develops as the polymer chains grow”.

He continued by saying, “The process has been extremely successful on wool fibres and the wash fastness has been shown to be extremely good, which is logical due to the size and insolubility of the coloured species”.

“The catalysts are very low impact in terms of eco-profile and toxicity when compared to things such as the antimony and tin-based catalysts used in synthetic fibre manufacture, and the process can be carried out cold, which is great news from an energy perspective”, he explained.

He said, “The technology has the potential to drastically reduce the dependence on petroleum as a starting point for dyes, and it should produce colours far more cost effectively, with lower environmental impacts than existing methods of dye manufacture and application”.

“It's therefore no wonder, investors and major dye companies are showing an interest. Work on cellulosic fibres will commence shortly”, he concluded by saying. The team is working on this research since the last few years and is close to a commercializing the technology.

Dr. Richard Blackburn has experience of dye chemistry, polyester coloration and environmental sustainability issues surrounding dyeing and dyestuffs and is currently a senior lecturer in the Centre for Technical Textiles, School of Design and Head of the Green Chemistry Group.

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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