Texas Tech University


CASNR’s Dean Ethridge to focus on foam indigo dyeing of cotton yarns

CASNR’s Dean Ethridge to focus on foam indigo dyeing of cotton yarns

Dean Ethridge, a noted cotton researcher and administrator, stepped down on Saturday (Dec. 31) as the managing director of the Texas Tech University’s Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute to take a research professor appointment that extends to Dec. 31, 2017.

The longtime professor will continue his current research, a study titled “Foam Indigo Dyeing of Cotton Yarns: Machine Design and Process Control.” The project, which received more than $470,000 in funding from the Wal-Mart Foundation, is aimed at reducing the amount of water, contaminants, time, labor, floor space and expense needed to apply indigo dye to denim yarns.

The effort centers on attempting to determine machine design parameters and process controls necessary for the foam application of pre-reduced indigo on yarns. By doing so, it could provide a more cost-efficient and ecologically sound method of dyeing denim.

“The Wal-Mart Foundation is enabling crucial developmental research into one of the most dominant cotton textile products in the world – indigo dyed denim,” Ethridge said. “Success in this project would reduce the water used to indigo dye denim by more than 90 percent. It would introduce a new paradigm for indigo dyeing that would enable drastic reductions in costs and drastic improvements in environmental impacts.”

In addition to Ethridge, other members of the research team include Noureddine Abidi, FBRI managing director; and Howard Malpass, an indigo dye consultant. The proof-of-concept testing was followed by the construction of a small-scale experimental foam-dyeing machine. Ethridge indicated that the results to date have been excellent.

Through the use of foam application, which saves on water and is more environmentally friendly, researchers hope to make the process of indigo dying more efficient. This is one of the largest cost components of denim fabric manufacturing. Indigo dye is a natural organic dye that has been synthetically produced and used as the main colorant of denim, particularly blue jeans, for more than 100 years.

Ethridge received his bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech, and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of California – Berkeley. Prior to joining the Texas Tech faculty in 1998, he worked at the University of Georgia and Texas A&M University. Over the years he has conducted international research projects in South and Central America, Africa, and Asia. In addition, he served as Director of Economic Services for the National Cotton Council of America, and Deputy Administrator of Policy Analysis with the USDA.

Ethridge has played a pivotal role in the success of the Texas International Cotton School in collaboration with the Lubbock Cotton Exchange, program officials said. The school is now enrolling students from all around the world for its 36th session to be held next August at Tech. The school provides an integrated and vertical understanding of the U.S. cotton industry with a Texas focus in cotton breeding, production, harvesting, ginning, classing, testing, processing, transporting, marketing, exporting and logistics. To date, more than 500 individuals from 54 countries have attended the cotton school.

Texas Tech’s FBRI is equipped and staffed to conduct research and development activities ranging from small-scale testing to large-scale manufacturing. A fundamental objective is to foster greater use of the natural fibers. Activities revolve around researching, testing, and evaluating natural and man-made fibers, production and evaluation of yarns and fabrics, alternative textile processing systems, dyeing and finishing, and special yarn and fabric treatments.

Located some six miles east of the main campus, the facility occupies 110,000 square-feet of space allowing researchers to conduct testing and evaluation from the raw fiber stage through the finished textile product. Facilities include a multimedia classroom, conference room and library, biopolymer research laboratory, phenomics laboratory, short staple spinning laboratory, and weaving laboratory.

Written by Norman Martin

CONTACT: Eric Hequet, Department Chair, Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2838 or eric.hequet@ttu.edu



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