The over arching aim of the pDENIM project (porkayoticDENIM) is to make a sustainable form of denim that is made and grown (both textile and dye), entirely from bacteria.
The textile for pDENIM will be made using GXCELL a specialised hyper-nanocellulose producing bacterial strain isolated from a kombucha scoby. When this bacterium is grown in a liquid mixture of vegetable extracts, it forms mat of cellulose that are far thicker than many other strains of cellulose producing bacteria (see figures below)
When the bacterial cellulose is dried it forms a thin and plastic-like film, which is brittle (see below) and clearly unsuitable for use as a flexible textile such as denim.
However, I have recently developed a process that converts the dried form of cellulose into a highly flexible textile, somewhere between paper and cotton (see below to see a refolded swatch of this material), and which will now become the bacterial fabric component pDENIM.
The other avenue of investigation for the pDENIM project seeks to find a sustainable and bacterially derived pigment to replace indigo, the dye used to stain denim blue. This dye was traditionally extracted from plants of the genus Indigofera. Today, however, the several thousand tons of indigo used each year is synthetic and is produced by industrial processes with obvious consequences for the environment. Whilst many bacteria are pigmented (e.g. red, purple, yellow and pink), those that produce strong blue pigments are rare. The first blue pigment bacterium that I investigated was Vogesella indigofera, a rare blue naturally pigmented bacterium that was originally isolated from a pond that had been used as a dump for highly toxic chemical waste (see below).
I find it intriguing that a life form so beautiful could arise from such a polluted environment. However, despite its beauty this bacterium was not a suitable replacement for indigo because its blue colour was too faint.
The second blue-pigmented bacterium that I characterised was Arthrobacter polychromogenes, which produces the water-soluble blue pigment, indochrome, together with the insoluble blue pigment, indigoidine (see below).
In the images below Arthrobacter polychromogenes has been grown on cotton and dyes it a deep blue. The next step will be mix the bacterially grown textile with the bacterially generated blue dye to make pDENIM. Watch this space……………..