Utah State biological engineer patents method making blue dye using E. coli

Thursday , February 25, 2016 - 3:07 PM

BRETT HEIN, Standard-Examiner Staff

LOGAN — Utah State University’s College of Engineering says one of its associate professors is helping the country take steps away from synthetic dyes found in many consumer products.

Dr. Jixun Zhan, an associate professor of biological engineering at the school, has patented a method to produce a natural blue dye called indigoidine, the school said in a press release. He did so using cells of E. coli.

Indigoidine was originally produced from a bacterial strain found in Rhode Island, but Zhan used E. coli to “churn out significantly higher yields of the blue pigment,” the statement said. His patent also includes a method to purify the pigment after its production.

Deep blue dye is often used to color jeans, leather, food, beverages and paper. Synthetic versions of this dye “can be harmful to human health and the environment,” the statement said. Zhan’s method produces high enough yields of the natural blue pigment that it may make an impact in the manufacturing of consumer products.

“The demand for natural dyes is growing rapidly,” said Christian Iverson, business development director for USU. “I’ve had a number of conversations with food and consumer product companies that are looking for natural dyes to replace some or all the synthetic chemical-based dyes currently in use – in particular blue."

Zhan is confident manufacturers will see the value of his process, noting consumers are increasingly aware of synthetic ingredients found in everyday products and are looking for natural substitutes wherever possible.

Contact Brett Hein at bhein@standard.net, follow on Twitter @bhein3 and find him on Facebook

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