A University of Georgia student is working on a new approach for dyeing textiles so that consumption of water and dye discharge which has toxic chemicals reduce significantly. The new process uses nanocellulose as a carrier of textile dyes. Compared to cotton fibres, nanocellulose fibres have more surface area, allowing efficient attachment of dye molecules.The environmentally friendly dyeing process has been shown to reduce the amount of wastewater and toxic chemicals. Traditional dyeing methods involve a dye bath that requires massive amounts of water, much of it released as toxic wastewater that can damage the environment and be costly to treat. AnuradhiLiyanapathiranage, University of Georgia doctoral student in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences’ department of textiles, merchandising and interiors, is working with FACS faculty members SergiyMinko and Suraj Sharma. Through a process of homogenisation, cellulose, a readily available natural polymer found in the cell wall of green plants, is converted into a hydrogel consisting of nanocellulose fibres. In this method, researchers dye the nanocellulose hydrogel instead of dyeing the fabric. Compared to cotton fibres, nanocellulose fibres have more surface area with high reactivity, allowing for more efficient attachment of dye molecules.

“My aspiration in life is to make social transformation through science,” Liyanapathiranage said. “Over the past decades, the development of material science has contributed to advances in electronics, nanotechnology and sustainable technologies. I’ve embraced research that enables advancing sustainable materials and sustainable technologies for industry.” Using this technique, UGA researchers have been able to reduce the water needed to dye 1 kilogram of cotton from 19 litres to just 1.9 litres. Recent analysis also indicates a 60 per cent reduction of dye discharge. Liyanapathiranage and the FACS team said they were excited about the potential impact the research can have on the textile industry. They are now looking at ways to upscale the technology to make it applicable to the industrial production process. UGA is the ideal place to make it happen, Liyanapathiranage said, based on its reputation for groundbreaking research bringing new products to market. “With the emerging trends on environmental pollution and population growth, sustainable technologies are the key to accomplishing viable socio-economic development,” she said. “I’m confident that our research projects will have a direct contribution to sustainable development, and that we will able to make a remarkable impact on the world with our innovations and discoveries.”