Researchers working for the EU-funded research project SOPHIED have discovered that a fungus from the Solomon Islands produces special enzymes that act as nano-bio-catalysts. These components help to trigger a chemical reaction between two different basic ingredients and turn it into a dye.
For traditional dye production concentrated acids and other chemicals are used. Because of the highly explosive process the chemicals need to be cooled down during the production. That requires a lot of energy. Besides, the chemicals pollute water and can provoke allergies.
The new eco-processing works without all these negative effects.
To extract the special enzymes researchers have come up with a new method consisting in putting the fungi into a liquid that contains nutrients. This allows them to grow and release the desired proteins into the liquid. No additional energy is needed. Once the fungi are taken out, silica-nanoparticles are added to the fluid. The proteins cling to the particles and can be transported to a solid support, a prerequisite to extract them from the liquid. They are then directly applied to textiles. The new colorants possess chemical features that allow them to adhere directly to the fibers of polyamide, wool or silk. Unlike in many traditional dying methods no extra chemicals that can pollute water and elicit allergies are needed.
First tests show that the colours only start fading in sunlight, while they resist washing and mechanical abrasion. Researchers are now working on a new method to make them light resistant.
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