Scientists in Canberra have developed a new kind of colored cotton that removes the need for dangerous chemical dyes, reported ABC. The researchers from CSIRO are looking to engineer sustainable natural fibers that may one day produce wrinkle-free, naturally dyed cotton.
To do so, the scientists have figured out cotton's molecular color code. This means they simply add genes to make the plants produce a color.
"Having the cotton produce its own color is a game-changer," told Dr. Colleen MacMillan to ABC, who leads the team.
"We've seen some really beautiful bright yellows, sort of golden-orangey colors, through to some really deep purple," fellow scientist Filomena Pettolino added.
For now, the new colored cotton is just a series of Petri dishes with plant tissues. It will take a few months to see if the tissue grows into actual colored plants. However, it looks very promising.
When the colored cotton genes were inserted into green tobacco plants, they showed up as colored splotches on the leaves. If the leaves are colored, it means that the fiber will be too.
This was when the scientists knew they were on the right path. Now, they are focusing particularly on the black dye, the most harmful and damaging dye of them all.
"This research can really have the potential to transform the global textile industry because we're making fibers that are still biodegradable, still renewable, but still have properties that they don't currently have," said MacMillan.
The team doesn't limit their work to colored cotton. They are also working on producing wrinkle-free textiles. This might seem like an impossible task but the researchers are well on their way to creating fabric that does not require ironing. We can't wait to see what they produce next!