New method cleans up textile industry's most dangerous chemicals

September 26, 2011

Textile dying is one of the most environmentally hazardous aspects of the textile industry. During dying, harmful chemicals that are difficult to break down are released, all too often into rivers and agricultural land. However, Maria Jonstrup, a doctoral student in Biotechnology at Lund University, has developed a new, environmentally friendly purification process which leaves only clean water. The findings are presented in Maria Jonstrup's thesis.

The research is so far only research, and has therefore only been tested in the laboratory, but Maria Jonstrup is optimistic about its future potential.

"In the long term it should be possible for textile factories in India, China and Bangladesh to use the technique. If it works on a laboratory scale it is quite likely that it will also work in a real-life situation", she says.

While working on her thesis, she has conducted experiments with both fungal enzymes and bacteria from the drains at textile industry and municipal wastewater treatment plants. However, it was only when she combined two different types of purification process, one biological and one chemical, that the breakthrough came.

"First, break down the in a . This biological step is the most important. However, to be certain that the water is completely purified, I also use some chemicals. Small amounts of iron and in combination with UV light break down even the most difficult structures", she explains.

A combination of both biological and chemical purification is already used in some places, but these methods are rarely effective, which means that large quantities of are released.

Soon, two Master's students will be taking over the baton. They will spend a year testing the technique in larger volumes of water, which more closely reflect the conditions in real textile factories. Their challenge will be to study how the UV light in the chemical stage could be replaced with normal sunlight. Maria Jonstrup will be their supervisor. After that it is hoped that the technique will be tested 'live', in a real factory.

"Through contacts with the Swedish clothing company Indiska Magasinet and their suppliers, we have already taken samples and performed tests at a factory in India. Because clothing manufacture has received quite a bad reputation over recent years, it can otherwise be quite difficult to gain access to the factories", she explains.

One obstacle on the path to implementation is legislation. The law only stipulates that the water is to be clean. This has made it legally permissible to filter out large amounts of environmentally hazardous mud and dump it on and elsewhere – since the water itself is clean!

"But sometimes factories don't bother to clean the water at all and only do it when the inspectors come round", she says.

Explore further: Purification and dilution reduce risk of fish being injured by hormone-disrupting compounds

Related Stories

You still can't drink the water, but now you can touch it

January 10, 2007

Engineers have developed a system that uses a simple water purification technique that can eliminate 100 percent of the microbes in New Orleans water samples left from Hurricane Katrina. The technique makes use of specialized ...

UV light stick purifies water

February 25, 2010

( -- Today, about one billion people on Earth don't have access to clean drinking water, and that number is expected to increase even more in the coming years. To solve this problem, inventors have been trying ...

New gadget for water purification: a 'nano tea bag'

August 18, 2010

( -- Scientists in South Africa have come up with a novel way of purifying water on a small scale using a sachet rather like a tea bag, but instead of imparting flavor to the water, the bag absorbs toxins, filters ...

Nike, Adidas suppliers 'polluting China rivers'

July 13, 2011

Environmental campaigners on Wednesday accused suppliers to major clothing brands including Adidas and Nike of poisoning China's major rivers with hazardous chemicals linked to hormonal problems.

Recommended for you

A new form of real gold, almost as light as air

November 25, 2015

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created a new type of foam made of real gold. It is the lightest form ever produced of the precious metal: a thousand times lighter than its conventional form and yet it is nearly impossible ...

Getting under the skin of a medieval mystery

November 23, 2015

A simple PVC eraser has helped an international team of scientists led by bioarchaeologists at the University of York to resolve the mystery surrounding the tissue-thin parchment used by medieval scribes to produce the first ...

Moonlighting molecules: Finding new uses for old enzymes

November 27, 2015

A collaboration between the University of Cambridge and MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, has led researchers to identify a potentially significant new application for a well-known ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.