Dutch company Dyecoo (which literally stands for dyeing with CO2) has developed a revolutionary textile dyeing machine that uses carbon dioxide in place of water.
It is estimated that an average 40 gallons of water is used to dye about 2.5 pounds of textile material. More than 60 billion pounds of textiles are dyed annually, making the textile industry one of the thirstiest in the world, as water is used as a solvent in many textile treatment and finishing processes. But our freshwater resources are drying up, necessitating the search for realistic alternatives. That’s where Dyecoo steps in with a textile dyeing method where carbon dioxide takes center stage, completely eliminating H20 from the picture.
The Dyecoo process is revolutionary in terms of its environmental impact. Compared to water-based dyeing, carbon dioxide textile dyeing uses no chemicals (eliminating toxic chemical leaching into waterways and soil), requires no drying time and is twice as fast, hence requiring much less energy. Although the technology is currently utilized for polyester, the development of CO2 dyes for natural fibers and other petro-chemical textiles is underway.
So how can you possibly eliminate water from a dyeing process? By creatively researching and manipulating chemical components. The scientists at Dyecoo explain that when carbon dioxide is heated and pressurized to a certain point, it exists in both gas and liquid forms. This means that in its liquid state the CO2 can dissolve dyes, while its gaseous state its viscous and diffusive properties allow for even dispersal of dyes and shorter dyeing times when compared to water. Dyeing with carbon dioxide is much more efficient than dyeing with water as it is quicker and doesn’t involve drying since the gaseous CO2 is released at the end of the process. Up to 90 percent of the released and recaptured CO2 can be recycled as all of the dyeing takes place in one machine.
Although the concept of waterless dyeing has undergone research for the last three decades, only in the last five years have scalable machines for industrial use been developed. Dyecoo has managed to attract textile manufacturers worldwide with its new machine and process, as the cost savings are an important driver for factory owners and stakeholders. Nike is the largest apparel manufacturer thus far to have announced a strategic partnership with Dyecoo, which it announced in 2012 in an effort to drive the technology throughout the industry. It is hoped that the technology will be widely adopted in Asia, where most of the world’s most pollutive textile dyeing occurs.