Though dyes based on fungi, especially lichens, have been used for quite some time, the technique adopted by Indian scientists is the first of its kind. Colours like browns, yelloTws and greys are easily obtained from common fungi varieties available in the country.
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Natural colours obtained from bacteria, mushrooms and
other fungi are all set to adorn clothes and crafts in the international market.
Pioneering research by Dr K Perumal and others on microbial dyes has
produced an array of natural colours that could be used for dyeing clothes,
stone works and handicrafts. These colours are eco-friendly and harmless
both to the users and the manufacturers. Even dyes obtained from poisonous
fungi are safe on the skin.
According to Dominique Cardon of Unesco, the colours
obtained from fungi are unique in pattern and colour intensity. "A synthetic
dye simply gives one colour whereas a dye obtained from fungus, mushroom
or bacteria gives an array of colours. It is a cocktail of colours and is very
rich in colour intensity and fastness," she said.
Dominique pointed out that the research on natural dyes from microbial
agents by Indian scientists would revolutionise the world of natural colours
and greatly benefit artisans and artists. "We have scores of coloured fungi
and mushrooms. There are coloured bacteria too. Using industrial techniques
the scientists obtained colours. These colours can be mixed in different
combinations to obtain rare colour patterns," the French researcher pointed
Though dyes based on fungi, especially lichens, have been used for quite
some time, the technique adopted by Indian scientists is the first of its kind.
Colours like browns, yellows and greys are easily obtained from common
fungi varieties available in the country.
The colours of the pH indicator, litmus, and various reds, yellows and mauve
are also available especially when using appropriate mordants. The
commonly used Litmus (of litmus test fame) is also a dye extracted from
fungus of the genus Roccella. In alkaline conditions it is blue. As the dying
conditions became more acidic, the colour changes from blue to purple and
She said these colours can be fixed to the cloth by using an appropriate
mordant. With the increase in the cost of petroleum products, manufacturers
are increasingly turning to fungi for their colouring needs. The demand for
natural colours has also gone up in the international market and the Indian
dyes from fungi and bacteria are going to play a major role.