CSIRO scientists in Canberra have developed a new kind of coloured cotton. The scientists have figured out cotton’s molecular colour code. This means they simply add genes to make the plants produce a colour.
“Having the cotton produce its own colour is a game-changer,” said Dr. Colleen MacMillan, who leads the team. “We’ve seen some really beautiful bright yellows, sort of golden-orangey colours, through to some really deep purple,” fellow scientist Filomena Pettolino added. For now, the new coloured cotton is just a series of petri dishes with plant tissues. It will take a few months to see if the tissue grows into actual coloured plants. However, it looks very promising, the researches say. When the coloured cotton genes were inserted into green tobacco plants, they showed up as coloured splotches on the leaves.
If the leaves are coloured, it means that the fibre will be too. This was when the scientists knew they were on the right path. Now, they are focusing particularly on the black dye, the most harmful and damaging dye of them all. “This research can really have the potential to transform the global textile industry because we’re making fibres that are still biodegradable, still renewable, but still have properties that they don’t currently have,” said MacMillan. The team doesn’t limit their work to coloured cotton. They are also working on producing fibre that can make wrinkle-free textiles. This might seem like an impossible task but the researchers are well on their way to creating fabric that does not require ironing.