New methods in textile production can improve the environment

The dyeing and preparation processes are without comparison the largest environmental impact of the textile production processes. 20 per cent of all industrial waste in the world comes from the textile industry and contains a large proportion of surfactants (chemicals that impact the surface tension in water and increases solubility) as well as auxiliary chemicals. 70 percent of all industrial waste goes unprocessed into watercourses and lakes.

– By reducing wastewater from the dyeing companies, you can hopefully use more efficient techniques for sewage treatment, says project leader Ellinor Niit, university lecturer in textile technology at the Swedish School of Textiles.

In the new project “Flex Dyer”, Ellinor will combine resource-efficient techniques for developing new methods for dyeing and finishing fabrics. She will use colours and chemicals with good properties in terms of hardiness, function, and their known impact on the environment.

– I would also like to verify that these separate methods can be joined into a new type of dyeing machine for textiles of different materials. This machine has been given the work name “Flex Dyer”, she says.

Will develop three current methods

One existing method is to spray on different functional chemicals that add properties such as water rejection, softness, or increased moisture transportation. This is a technique that Ellinor will develop and wants to combine with the dyeing process.

– As the spray technology has been refined, I can see a possibility to use it for a precise and controllable distribution of colour solution before the dyeing starts. If the colour solution is evenly distributed from the start, we don’t have to use process time to smooth the colour over the length of the part, Ellinor explains.

She will also develop a method for smaller amounts of liquid (bathing conditions), despite the more efficient watering processes, more efficient mechanical treatment, and chemical reaction conditions during the treatment of the fabric. She will also combine these techniques with a control that measures, controls, and adjusts the processes with the accuracy of a second.

The industry’s need of flexibility

Ellinor Niit has many years of practical experience from the industry, where she has identified a need for greater flexibility.

– For example, you need to be able to produce sample sections of 10-30 metres and later scale up to production orders and use the same process conditions, without having to invest in special test machines that don’t give the same output as the existing production machines and that can’t be fully used anyway.

At the first stage, Ellinor works with identifying which possibilities and limitations that exist with the application of dye and chemicals with spray.

The project ”Flex Dyer” is financed by Chalmer’s Innovation Office.

Text: Anna Kjellsson
Photo: Peter Andersson/Suss Wilén
Translation: Linda Lindstedt