Novel and Improved Methods for Extracting Colorants from Indigo and Black Walnut

Period of Performance: 01/01/2013 - 12/31/2013


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Whites Creek, TN 37189
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


The market for natural colorants is growing. Trends in food, cosmetics, and textiles show consumers are concerned over the use of synthetic, petroleum-derived dyes and seek a more environmentally friendly option. However, manufacturers cannot compromise on quality, stability, or functionality of colorants in their products. Natural colorants, including from plants, have been used as dyes for thousands of years. However, many potential dye crops and by-products of food processing are not currently exploited as sources of colorants. This project seeks to determine the most efficient, environmentally friendly, and economic process to convert low-value raw plant material into an industry-ready, high quality colorant. The natural colorants produced as a result of this research will be safer for the environment, "green" the textile industry, and benefits U.S. farmers and foresters with access to a new market. We will develop storable, stable, shippable colorants from black walnut hulls and indigo plants. We will improve the technical extraction process and creating production protocols for these alternative crops. Stony Creek Colors will facilitate the entry of these value-added colorants, grown by small and medium size U.S. farmers and foresters, into the U.S. and export natural colorant market. The U.S. company that can create cost effective, machine-ready, and sustainably sourced dye extracts from known dye plant resources will open up high-growth markets by linking agricultural producers and the raw material supply chain with the end consumers demand, including textile and sewn-product manufacturers and dyehouses. Dozens of native and cultivated species contain natural colorants. However, raw material must be extracted into a standardized and high quality colorant in order to reach industrial textile market, which has very specific product and performance needs. This project works across the natural colorant value chain to reach our commercialization goal: high quality U.S. grown colorants used in the textile industry. Reaching our goal of commercialization and market adoption of U.S. sources of natural colorants allows us to reach our desired outcomes: new and diversified income for farm and forestry communities and increased competitiveness of U.S. textile firms and rural industries.