A wardrobe staple that is part of everyone’s collection could soon become more sustainable as a Nottingham scientist has been given a funding boost to aid research to help reduce pollution in the textile industry.
Professor Nigel Minton, Director of the Synthetic Biology Research Centre (SBRC) at the University of Nottingham, is one of 18 recipients of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) £5.3million Circular Bioeconomy fund that aims to support the recycling and reusing of materials, and increase the sustainability of the textile and clothing industries.
To be granted funding, the 18 UK-based biotechnology projects needed to demonstrate the effective reuse of resources, reduced fossil fuel usage or promote the switch to bio-based alternatives.
The indigo dye which gives denim its blue colour is made on an industrial scale from petrochemicals and its production creates significant pollution problems. Professor Minton’s research, based in the School of Life Sciences, addresses that pollution problem by proposing a return to a traditional plant-based feedstock which is converted to the dye by a bacterium. That process avoids the use of petrochemicals and minimises the pollution problem.
To make the process economic, Professor Minton and his team will use genome engineering tools to optimise the performance of the bacterium required in the fermentation of the dye.
The BBSRC funded project offers an exciting opportunity to explore yet another facet of bacterial diversity, offering the chance to reduce the tremendous environmental damage caused by dyeing blue denim.
Dr Colin Miles, Head of Bioscience for Advanced Manufacturing and Clean Growth at BBSRC, said: “BBSRC welcomes the opportunity to invest in these innovative projects and give some of our brightest biotechnology researchers the chance to help create a more sustainable future for us all.
“This exciting programme of work will drive forward biotechnological research based on discoveries made by the UK bioscience community to address one of the most urgent challenges of our age; how to build a more circular, sustainable bioeconomy.
“This is essential if we are to reduce our carbon emissions and preserve vital, valuable resources, while at the same time maintaining our national prosperity and growing the economy for everyone.”
As well as this funding achievement, Professor Nigel Minton will be one of just 30 distinguished individuals from around the world selected by the University of Helsinki to be conferred as Honorary Doctors. This will take place in Helsinki at a special ceremony on 19th May.
Professor Minton said of the honour: “It’s an honour to receive this prestigious award from the University of Helsinki and gratifying that they appreciate my contributions to the clostridial field. Clostridium is a diverse bacterial group of both medical and industrial significance.”