A Texas Tech University Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute (FBRI) research project has been awarded more than $470,000 in funding by the Walmart Foundation.
The study, titled “Foam Indigo Dyeing of Cotton Yarns: Machine Design and Process Control,” is aimed at reducing the amount of water, contaminants, time, labor, floor space and expense needed to apply indigo dye to denim yarns. The research team is attempting to determine machine design parameters and process controls necessary for the foam application of pre-reduced indigo on yarns to help provide a more cost-efficient and ecologically sound method of dyeing denim.
“Walmart has long been a mainstay of the retail sector in this region of Texas, and cotton has long been ‘king’ here,” said FBRI Managing Director Dean Ethridge. “Now the Walmart Foundation is enabling crucial developmental research into one of the most dominant cotton textile products in the world – indigo dyed denim.
“Success in this project would reduce the water used to indigo dye denim by more than 90 percent,” he added. “It would introduce a new paradigm for indigo dyeing that would enable drastic reductions in costs and drastic improvements in environmental impacts. Without a doubt, it would be among the greatest legacies of Texas Tech University’s Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute.”
By using foam application, which saves on water and is more environmentally friendly, researchers hope to make the process of indigo dyeing of denim – which is one of the largest cost components of denim fabric manufacturing – more cost efficient. Indigo dye is a natural organic dye that has been synthetically produced and used as the main colorant of denim, particularly blue jeans, for more than 100 years.
“Coloring cotton is actually a very complex process, and innovations such as foam technology over conventional liquid-phase dyeing may ultimately result in lower process costs and hence a better value for the customer,” said Robert V. Duncan, Texas Tech vice president for research. “This application of basic science to achieve better industrial results is exactly the sort of research that we intend to expand upon in the future.”
In addition to Ethridge, other members of the research team include Noureddine Abidi, FBRI director of Biopolymer Research; Howard Malpass, an indigo dye consultant; and Ralph Tharpe, Casey Bownds, Larry Griffin, Gerald Gohlke, Bryan Gregory and Larry Lundberg, all of American Cotton Growers Denim in Littlefield, TX.
Source – Texas Tech University