Team:NUS Singapore-A


Project Overview

According to the World Bank, synthetic dyes are responsible for a fifth of all industrial water pollution. They are difficult to remove from the environment as they can withstand water, light, temperature, detergents, soaps, chemicals, bleach, and perspiration… yet these are the compounds used to dye most our clothes. Synthetic dyes may also undergo degradation, forming toxic and carcinogenic compounds. Natural dyes provide consumers a good alternative. However, they rely on unsustainable methods of extraction from plants and are often inconsistent in quality. We believe the solution lies in synthetic biology. This year, we aim to engineer E. coli to produce flavonoids. This will be a much more sustainable method of producing natural dye as compared to current methods. Every batch of our flavonoids could be made high in purity and bold in colour - the exact same colour as the batch before it, and all the batches that will come after. Moreover, we will use resources on a far smaller scale than any natural dye because we do not need large amount of land to grow the plants. Microbial production of natural dyes is a promising field that could potentially revolutionise the natural dye industry. However, to date, such efforts are mostly focused on indigo (blue) production. We hope to offer this industry, which also includes designers, access to all three primary colours by producing red and yellow natural dyes, so that by mixing, we can finally complete the rainbow. It is our dream that our system can see widespread adoption by dye-manufacturing industries, to finally produce quality natural dyes sustainably.