Enzymatic coloration and coating for wool fibres

Project timeframe
Fri, 01 Oct 2021 00:00:00 BST - Fri, 30 Sep 2022 00:00:00 BST
Research area
Textiles
Amount awarded
£50,000
Funder ID
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (BBSCR NIBB) Phase II: BBNet

Project leader: Dr Chetna Prajapati

This collaborative project between Loughborough University, De Montfort University, and Industry Partners: British Wool, Fox Brothers & Co Ltd, and The Woolmark Company aims to develop an innovative enzyme-based biotechnology for the coloration and anti-shrinkage of wool fibres that offers improved environmental sustainability.

Wool fibres offer extensive natural benefits such as thermal insulation, breathability, and biodegradability. However, wool currently only makes up 1% of global fibre production due to strong competition from cheaper synthetic fibres. With increasing demands for sustainable textile materials, closed-loop textile circularity, and a reduction of negative impacts caused by synthetic materials damage to the environment, enzyme-based biotechnology could provide an alternative solution to improve wool fibre performance, including felting shrink-resistance during washing process and limit the impact of wool processes on the environment by reducing water and energy consumption, and effluent discharge.

Enzyme-based biotechnology in the current project will be used to develop a one-step enzymatic process to achieve simultaneous anti-shrinkage and coloration of wool fibres to extend the typical lifespan of a wool product or offer wool fibre recycling and composting post-use. Enzymes originating from fungi will be used to explore the extraction and application of wool polypeptides from waste wool feedstocks and post-consumer waste wool through an environmentally friendly method that uses low-impact mild processing conditions for greater energy and water savings and process efficiency. No synthetic dyestuff, harmful chemical additives or added-on synthetic polymers will be used during the in-situ enzyme-catalysed polymerisation process to enable wool fibres to be kept in use for longer through recycling or provide nitrogen rich nutrients for soils via composting, contributing towards sustainable and circular closed-loop textile systems.

The project will be led by Dr Chetna Prajapati from Loughborough University and Professor Jinsong Shen from De Montfort University.