Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Biotechnology in Textiles

The rapid developments in the field of genetic engineering have given a new impetus to the biotechnology. This introduces the possibility of 'tailoring' organisms in order to optimize the production of established or novel metabolites of commercial importance and of transferring genetic material (genes) from one organism to another. Biotechnology also offers the potential for new industrial processes that require less energy and are based on renewable raw materials. It is important to note that biotechnology is not just concerned with biology, but it is a truly interdisciplinary subject involving the integration of natural and engineering sciences. Defining the scope of biotechnology is not easy because it overlaps with so many industries such as the chemical industry or food industry being the majors, but biotechnology has found many applications in textile industry also, especially textile processing and effluent management. Environmental protection is becoming a serious concern for textile wet processors. Dyes discharged from textile dyeing and finishing processes are a priority pollutant because of their visibility at low concentrations. Most dyes have low toxicity but their components and breakdown products can be more toxic. Physical and chemical treatment techniques are effective for colour removal but use more energy and chemicals than the biological processes. They also concentrate the pollution into solid or liquid streams requiring additional treatment or disposal. Biotechnological methods can completely mineralize pollutants and are usually cheaper.

Biotechnology in Textiles:
Biotechnology has its roots in the dawn of the history. It is not new to textile industry, it has been used in textile processing for the enzymatic removal of starch sizes from woven fabrics for most of this century and the fermentation vat is probably the oldest known dyeing process. The scope of enzymes in textile industry is very wide. This can be understood by looking at the wide spectrum of applications in textiles. The major areas of application of biotechnology in textile industry are Improvement of plant varieties used in the production of textile fibres and in fibre properties, Improvement of fibres derived from animals and health care of the animals, Novel fibres from biopolymers and genetically modified micro-organisms, Replacement of harsh and energy demanding chemical treatments by enzymes in textile processing, Environment friendly routes to textile auxiliaries such as dyestuffs, Waste management.
Textile processing industry is characterized by high consumption of energy and resources and time consuming processes. Lot of pollutants are generated by textile industry, especially textile processing sector produces most of the pollutants, mostly water pollutants. Waste water from textile industry, especially process houses, is characterized by high COD and BOD, suspended solids and intense color due to the extensive use of dyes. This type of water must be treated before discharging it into the environment. The water must be decolorized; harmful chemicals must be converted into harmless chemicals. . Biological treatments have been used to reduce the COD of textile effluents. Instead of using the chemical treatments various biological methods can be used to treat the waste water from the textile industry. These methods include, Biosorption, use of Enzymes, Aerobic and anaerobic treatments etc. Only biotechnological solutions can offer complete destruction of the dyestuff, with a co-reduction in biological oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD). In addition, the biotechnological approach makes efficient use of the limited development space available in many traditional dyehouse sites
Many azo dyes and harmful chemicals, like p-chlorophenol have been banned from use. The area in which biotechnology is required exactingly is the treatments on waste water generated during textile processing. The presence of chemicals, like formaldehyde, salts, phenols, dyes, alkalis and acids, heavy metals, polyvinyl alcohol in waste water is very harmful to the environment. So these chemicals must be either removed or converted into harmless chemicals by treating them chemically or biologically.

Though the industrial Biotechnology is in the early stages of development but its innovative applications are increasing and spreading rapidly into all areas of manufacturing. It is already providing useful tools that allow for cleaner, more sustainable production methods and will continue to do so in the future. Adoption of biotechnology ensures the cleaner environment; also it cuts the cost of the processes. Textile industry, which is responsible for generation of lot of pollutants in all forms, must adopt the biotechnology, especially in the processing sector, to reduce the consumption of energy as well as other resources.

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