In 2018, fashion designer Ida Näslund got an idea — to create ink-colour for textiles with microalgae. In 2020, she founded Mounid.
— When I worked as a print and pattern designer, I used digital techniques because they were the most resource-efficient techniques — but it was hard to find textile colours that were truly sustainable. The largest problem within textile production for the environment today is the dyeing process which requires a lot of harmful chemicals and demands a lot of water and energy from conventional dyeing processes. So, I became determined to find an alternative non-toxic colour solution suitable for digital colouring techniques. I made some research about colours in nature and got into algae and became completely fascinated by its range of colours.
When she introduced her idea about using microalgae to create ink colour for researchers and experts in microbiology and chemistry, they became very interested and started a tight collaboration.
— We began with a pre-study through Smart Textiles in Borås and in the pre-study we could validate the potential. After that, I made a second validation project and now, I’m completely dedicated to working on the development of the algae ink. I’m now doing a pilot project and the goal is to get ready for the market next year. While working with the development, I’m also planning for building a demo production in the near future.
Your technology, how does it work?
— The algae ink formulation combines microalgae in a unique way and the innovation is currently going through a patent process. The ink takes advantage of microalgae to make it free from harmful substances that conventional inks are based on. In comparison with other natural sources, microalgae don’t compete with cultivable land and can be produced rapidly on a large scale and volumes. The algae ink colours enable to create products that will be safe for both nature and human health. And it’s suitable for innovative resource-efficient spray-dyeing techniques, so with algae ink combined with these technologies we can additionally save water and energy consumption by about 90%.
The mentioned pilot project, Ida Näslund explains, currently works to optimize the algae ink to meet customer requirements.
— For example, when I’m working with the brands we’re iterating the algae ink with their chosen materials step by step. We verify and test the performance to meet the requirements. On this basis, we also want to find the best balance where we can develop sustainable and durable products that won’t compromise with nature. Together with my partner IVL, I’m working to calculate the environmental benefit of using algae ink in comparison to conventional dyes. Synthetic colours have served us with great fastness which at the same time is a big problem for nature — it never disappears. We will demonstrate the environmental benefits and potentials of working with biobased and biodegradable algae ink colour, she says, adding,
— I also work with other projects in parallel with the pilot as I see a lot of possibilities for applications and development of functions. I see a lot of interest from the industry. We start to become more aware of how we must start to work with colours in the future if we want to retain a colourful future, for both humans and nature.