Sergiy Minko, professor of fiber and polymer science in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, discussed his recent research into sustainable fashion with The Financial.
Denim manufacturing is a large polluter and uses significant amounts of water to produce and dye various jean materials.
“The textile industry is a classic example of an environmental polluter, and one of the major causes of pollution in the industry is coloration,” said Minko.
Synthetic indigo is used to dye denim, and because it isn’t water soluble, it has to be reduced using toxic chemicals before it can be used on any clothes.
Minko’s research shows that by using a new dying method with natural indigo, it eliminates the need for harmful chemicals that could potentially damage the environment.
“You don’t reduce the indigo in the process; you don’t dissolve it,” Minko said. “You simply mix it with nanocellulose fibrils and deposit it on the surface of the textile. And you can change the shade of blue by the amount of indigo particles added in the mixture.”
The method, using nanocellulose, essentially “glues” the color onto the fabric as opposed to dipping and oxidizing the fabric each time. By using this process in commercialized denim production, the jean industry could be more sustainable.
“Denim and jeans manufacturing are a big market, so even small changes in the industry could have huge impacts,” Minko said. “There are populations that are looking for products that are made in environmentally friendly ways. And as regulations become tougher, the industry will have to adapt.”