Revolutionizing the process of dyeing textiles by using natural or engineered microbes


Revolutionizing the process of dyeing textiles by using natural or engineered microbes

The focus of this project is to use natural or engineered bacteria, fungi or other microorganisms to dye textiles in a sustainable and cost efficient manner.

The fashion industry is the 2nd most polluting industry in the world. A big part of this pollution is attributed to the process of dyeing textiles. It is estimated that nearly 20% of the global water pollution is related to the textile dyeing processes. This is mainly caused by the use of synthetic, petroleum based colorants to dye textiles but also from the use of toxic fixation agents (e.g. formaldehyde and chromium) to fix those colorants on the textiles. A large proportion of colorants and fixating agents is being released in water streams causing destruction in the surrounding ecosystems due to their toxicity and their non-biodegradability.

An alternative to the synthetic colorants are natural colours extracted from plant sources. Whereas these colorants are biodegradable, they still need to get fixed on the textiles by using toxic fixating agents. Also, the quality of such colorants is inferior to the synthetic colours, they require large agricultural land to grow the plant material and the production of plants requires vast quantities of water, herbicides and pesticides. Altogether, an alternative colouring method is of great interest from the textile and fashion industry.


With a team of fashion artists and scientists, we have developed a method to colour textiles through the use of natural or engineered microbes. We want to expand the portfolio of colours we are using, the portfolio of microbes we are using and the portfolio of textile (synthetic or natural) material we can dye with our microbes and colours. Ultimately, we want to develop the first sustainable and cost efficient method for using microbes to colour textiles. Do you want to be a part of this? Then join our innovative and very exciting project.

Multiple techniques may be used during your project including:

  • microbial cultivation
  • microbe engineering
  • establishment of textile dyeing processes
  • multi-litre controlled fermentations
  • high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)

In addition, due to the wide application of this project in the fashion and textile industry and the existing interest of the industry, you may experience an entrepreneurial environment related to translating our research into business opportunities.

If you are interested in a BSc or MSc thesis on this project please feel free to contact me via email or by phone: +31(0)317483117 or pop by my office at Helix, room 5073.