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Bacteria Make Indigo Dye More 'green'
- Sep 28, 2018 -

A paper published in the media reports on an environmentally friendly method of producing indigo dyes from genetically modified bacteria. The representative blue of denim fabric usually comes from indigo. This biological method of synthesizing and applying indigo dyes avoids the need for harmful chemicals.


Natural indigo comes from plants, which have been extracted from plants for thousands of years and used as a blue dye. However, the modern demand for this dye has led to the manufacture of indigo by chemical synthesis on an industrial scale. The process involves a variety of hazardous chemicals that can cause damage to the environment.


John Dueber of the university of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues created a "green" way of producing indigo by using genetically modified bacteria that produce a related compound, indole. Indole is inherently unstable, but researchers have found an enzyme that stabilizes indole by linking it to a sugar molecule. This enzyme meets bacteria to produce blue parent urine, which can be easily isolated and preserved for a long time. Later, when it was time to dye, another enzyme converted urine indigo directly into the fabric.


The researchers suggest that their method of producing indigo is not yet practical for industrial production, but may in the long run provide a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to current chemical processes.

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