Can pond scum's become a
source of high tech fibres used for making protective textiles?
Green algae blooms normally cause havoc in the waterways, and causes damage to the marine ecology systems and fisheries as it consumes large amount of oxygen. An outbreak of these algae even caused a standstill in the Quingdao Olympic Games during 2008. But currently, researchers have come up with a meaningful application for these cumbersome weeds which foresees eventful textile applications.
In Southeast Asian countries, algae are used prominently for various purposes. Algae are an excellent substitute for chemical fertilizers, and chemical dyes and pigments. It controls the emission of carbon, and carbon compounds. Modern technology has acquired many useful substances from them. Currently, they also serve for an added purpose, making fibres for making high tech fabrics.
These fibres were developed in a laboratory at the Qingdao University. A factory is planned in Qingdao, a city in the eastern China with an annual production capacity of 1,000 tons of fibres. Fibres can be extracted from green and brown algae, and even some destructive algae that are believed to be dangerous to marine ecology.
Approximately 200 to 250 kg of alginate can be extracted from a ton of dry algae which can be used to make 200 kg of fibres. Production cost is estimated to be around 50, 000 to 70, 000 Yuan for a ton. Researchers also believe that they can bring down the production costs, if the fibres are blended with cotton. No material derived from algae is considered to be a pollutant. These fabrics can be used for making protective textiles, which can be worn by firefighters, and in the medical field, for making bandages. These fabrics have high strength and amazing virtues. Being one of the worlds largest algae aquaculture countries, China has the credit of abundant availability of alginate fibres.
Algae can also be used for dyeing our clothes in an eco-friendly way. British scientists have come up with a novel application of using algae to add color to fabrics and paints. These algae called diatoms are single celled organisms paced in shining shells. These shells add a distinctive feature to the algae, which makes them act as crystals, enabling them to change their color depending on the configuration of the holes in their shell. The sensitivity of the color is maintained without changing the chemical composition of the fabric. As the paint dries, the algae align themselves horizontally at the surface, reflecting light in a uniform manner. So, even a transparent paint, and transparent silica shells can produce strong shade. This can provide a safe and an economical alternative for dye industry.
Algae are one of the best examples for useful application of eco-friendly resources. New applications for making fibres out of algae will positively make it, a valuable resource.