It’s not easy being green


Photo by Nancy Evelyn

Did you know that the shirt you’re wearing right now took three years of drinking water (roughly 2,700 liters) to make?

Current textile dyeing processes consume massive quantities of water and release large amounts of dye into the environment, with 20 to 30 percent rinsing off during the washing process.

Anuradhi Liyanapathiranage, a doctoral student in the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors, is working to change that by developing an eco-friendly textile dyeing method.

Her research, conducted with professors Sergiy Minko and Suraj Sharma at the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, uses a natural polysaccharide called fibrillated nanocellulose (NFC) as an efficient carrier of textile dyes. NFC is non-toxic and engineered from abundantly available cellulose sources.

Liyanapathiranage’s research uses dye molecules that are covalently attached to the NFC, allowing the nanocellulose to efficiently carry the dye to the fabric surface.

“In simple terms, we dye the nanocellulose instead of dyeing the fabrics,” she says. “We then deposit the dyed nanocellulose on the fabrics rather than using a conventional dye bath.”

Dye fixed to NFC exists in the nano-scale and achieves a faster rate of diffusion across the fabric, according to Liyanapathiranage. The nanocellulose also ensures the permanent retention of dye molecules by forming stable physical bonds.

This new technology delivers excellent dye performance compared to the conventional dyeing method. With the new technology, the team reduced the water requirement to dye one kilogram of cotton from 19 liters to just 1.9 liters.

This brief appeared in the spring 2019 issue of Research Magazine. The original story is available at