British startup Colorifix is tapping into bacteria that give birds and butterflies their vibrant color to recreate a more Eco-friendly dye for textiles and fabrics.
Colorifix, which is backed by Swedish fashion giant H&M, is confident that its new dyeing process will help slash water usage and heavy chemicals generally favored by the textile industry.
Common dyeing methods involve large concentrations of hazardous chemicals such as chromium and other heavy metal salts.
These consume vast amounts of energy and water, which in turn results in contaminated wastewater becoming a major source of pollution.
According to Colorifix’s Chief Scientific Officer Jim Ajioka, the startup’s method uses no hazardous chemicals and cuts water use by up to 90% depending on equipment, pigment and fabric.
Speaking to Reuters, Ajioka explains that the process can also be carried out at lower temperatures unlike other common dyeing methods.
Colorifix – just like its French rival PILI – harvests a color gene in nature and inserts it into a bacterial cell, tricking it to fill up with the color as well as duplicate.
These cells are encouraged to jump onto the fabric and release the dye on it, after which the solution is briefly heated up to kill them.
CEO Orr Yarkoni has already announced industrial-scale trials in partnerships with H&M, Switzerland’s Forster Rohner, and India’s Arvind.
The tests will be conducted at dye houses supplying those brands.
If these prove successful, Colorifix is expected to launch its 5-ml batches of microbes bulging with color commercially by 2020.