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  • The triumph of Alchemie’s ecological technology to transform the textile industry | City & Business | Finance

The triumph of Alchemie’s ecological technology to transform the textile industry | City & Business | Finance

By on May 5, 2022 0

The Cambridge-based disruptor is spearheading a crucial transition with low-energy, waterless solutions that tackle the harmful environmental impact of the fashion and furniture sectors.

Wet methods traditionally used involve massive water consumption and high carbon emissions to apply dyes and ‘finishes’.

These are the chemicals that improve sports and workwear by making them waterproof or odor resistant and antibacterial.

After eight years of development and backing from investors including global fashion brand H&M, Alchemie is introducing its revolutionary Endeavor and Novara machines to the world with mass production to be done in-house.

Endeavor’s digital dyeing technology, which increases efficiency and output fivefold, reduces energy consumption by 85% and water consumption by 95%, while Novara focuses on the processing element.

Demonstration showcases showcasing the technology have begun, starting with the epicenter of textile manufacturing in Taiwan, followed by Turkey, India, Bangladesh and Portugal.

Alchemie’s smart innovation Endeavor centers around high performance jet technology, thousands of nozzles blast nano-droplets of dyes onto materials with the ability to create patterns as well as block colors. Infrared light, potentially using a green energy source such as solar power, then physically fixes them.

Novara is similarly powered, with apps precisely targeted where they’re needed. This is normally just one side of a fabric and multiple finishes become an option with Novara with one side allowing for example waterproofing while the other receives an anti-odour treatment.

The adaptable and efficient processes stand in stark contrast to conventional practices that rely on high-energy rinsing and imprecise mass immersion in chemical baths to achieve results while generating large amounts of toxic wastewater.

“The fashion industry is one of the dirtiest on the planet, producing more carbon emissions than shipping and aviation combined. The dye is its most polluting part. But it is also the industry that can reduce its carbon emissions at the fastest rate by changing the way it dyes,” says Alchemie founder Dr. Alan Hudd.

“With Endeavour, there is no waste water. We can halve the cost of textile dyeing which, in an era of skyrocketing energy costs, is even more relevant. Textile operations could see energy bills rise by a million pounds this year.

The former rocket scientist and ace inventor, who has more than 250 patents to his name, was a leader in the innovation of inkjet printing technology and disrupted the ceramic industry in new ways to color the tiles, before putting his phenomenal skills at the service of saving the earth.

The trigger that led Alchemie to focus on dyeing came in 2017 when a Chinese manufacturer highlighted the problems in this particular part of the textile industry.

Big manufacturers will need clusters of machines, which cost £1.5million each and are similar in size to an old-fashioned printing press. Alchemie’s goal is to produce at least 200 per year by 2024.

US economic sustainability specialist At One Ventures has been another key funder and after an overall investment of £12m so far, Alchemie expects to raise another £10m this fall and double his team of 40 people.

The non-absorbent surface of polyester that makes it resistant to dyeing has been one of the toughest problems to solve, but after that Alchemie will launch a sustainable cotton solution next month.

It is also possible to work with producers of bio-based inks and, as black is the most common dye color for textiles, to exploit carbon black from used tires.

The most difficult challenge, however, remains: how to get the textile industry to make the colossal changes needed.

“Billions of pounds of investment are needed and only collaboration between brands and manufacturers with state support will do that,” says Dr Hudd who would like to see more government recognition of game-changing innovators the deal such as Alchemy.

“The UK is at the forefront of this revolution,” he says, “with a huge opportunity to play a world-changing role.”