Research collaboration to reduce environmental impact of textile dyeing

Media release

09 November 2021

Dyeing is one of the most polluting and energy intensive processes in textile manufacturing. Deakin's Institute for Frontier Materials and Australian textile technology expert Xefco are working together to develop new atmospheric plasma techniques to improve conventional textile dyeing processes, both in terms of energy efficiencies and eco-friendliness.

Utilising Xefco’s proprietary XSP™ technology - a new atmospheric plasma system that is being developed in collaboration with the Institute for Frontier Materials, Proficiency Contracting and the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) - the 12-month, $700 000 project aims to create a new, less water-dependent dyeing approach by applying atmospheric plasma coatings.

Dr Frank Chen, who leads this project at Deakin's Institute for Frontier Materials, along with Associate Professors Dr. Weiwei Lei and Dr. Alessandra Sutti, believes that it is possible to achieve significant energy efficiencies and sustainability benefits when using advanced plasma technology.

"The XSP™ technology we have been developing together with Xefco can be used to apply functional coatings to textiles and other materials via a patented process of plasma enhanced chemical vapour deposition (PECVD) in atmospheric conditions," said Associate Professor Dr Weiwei Lei. "This process can be extended and produce a range of highly durable treatments including colour, using less water, and dyeing agents."

With 85 per cent of water used in textile manufacturing being consumed during the dyeing process, Dr. Alessandra Sutti adds that "even small improvements in process efficiency, such as small reductions in water consumption, will have a massive environmental impact".

Both are certain that the new atmospheric plasma coating technology will set a new path for the future viability of the textile industry.

Having developed and commercialised several cutting-edge textile manufacturing methods and systems, Xefco General Manager of Plasma Technologies Scott Whitby says the new atmospheric plasma processes developed as part of this IMCRC activate project will transform textile dyeing and lead to a wider adoption of more sustainable production methods across the industry.

"The textile world has been lagging behind in sustainability for many processes, with dyeing being one of the biggest drains on resources," said Mr Whitby. "These days we need to think beyond prevailing patterns and invest in innovative, long-term sustainable solutions that will drive the change this industry needs to move into the modern era."

For Dr Matthew Young, Manufacturing Innovation Manager at IMCRC, this project is a great example of continued, industry-focused research collaboration.

"Xefco proactively invests in research and development into innovative manufacturing solutions to be produced in Australia," said Dr Young. "By partnering with two Deakin teams of highly skilled researchers, the company gains complementary expertise in materials science, textile engineering and plasma physics and chemistry.

"Together, they will rethink how dyeing and functional coatings can be applied in textile manufacturing, and make sure that innovation, sustainability and the environment are taken into consideration from the outset."

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Tania Palich
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