TTU Tries to Re-Invent Dying Process in the Denim Industry

Published 08/22 2014 04:35PM

Updated 08/22 2014 06:16PM

By: Meredith Hillgartner

LUBBOCK,TX- Texas Tech wants to re-design the denim industry, by creating a more efficient way to dye jeans with foam indigo. 

Dr. Dean Ethridge, the Managing Director of the Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute, said right now, indigo can not be used as dye in its' normal state, because it is not absorbed as well as other dyes; so manufacturers have to chemically alter it first-a time consuming, labor intensive process. 

By using foam dying, they can significantly reduce costs. 

"A large reduction in cost, a lot of efficiency," Dr. Ethridge said. "But also it reduces water use by over 90% and becomes a much more environmentally friendly process." 

There is one catch, researchers haven't found a way to make indigo into foam. Dr. Ethridge said the problem with turning indigo into foam is that foam is mostly air, and indigo oxidizes air. 

"The issue is not foam dying, foam dying has been known for two decades," Dr. Ethridge said. "But it has not been successfully applied to Indigo because of the special conditions that have to exist for indigo dye to work." 

If Ethridge and the research team are successful in their indigo foam conversion they could transform the entire denim manufacturing industry. 

"Denim is probably one of the most dominant textural products in the world," Dr. Ethridge said. "And it is one of the single largest user of cotton fiber in the world." 

That is why WalMart invested $472,000 into the project, thanks to their WalMart Foundation 'Manufacturing Innnovation' Fund. Dr. Ethridge said the grant is not only needed to fund the massive amount of machinery they will have to build just to start their research, but it shows they are on the right track. 

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