The Walmart Foundation, our world’s largest retailer, recently gave Oregon State University a $810,000 grant to research environmentally friendly and sustainable ways to dye fabric. The plan is to pursue continuous digital printing and drying of biopigment inks.
Four OSU professors from different departments have been chosen to collaborate on the textile research project: Alex Chang from the College of Chemical Engineering, Hsiou-Lien Chen from the College of Business, Sara Robinson from the College of Forestry and Wildlife, and Rajiv Malhotra from the College of Manufacturing Engineering.
“I like the collaboration because we can each bring different ideas,” Chang commented.
The four professors plan to start fully working on the research project in the beginning of March and hope to have significant results within the next three years.
“Together we hope to create a new drying technique using light photon energy to dry the ink faster and more efficiently,” Chang said. “How this idea started was that Professor Robinson found a special fungi that can produce different biopigment. Now, our job is to turn that biopigment into ink. We are also working Xerox’s printing technology in Wilsonville.”
Walmart is searching for more inventive ways to create and fabricate their products. According to a press release, the company views “higher education as the key to innovation,” and the U.S. Conference of Mayors partnered with Walmart on the program to help increase production jobs.
Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability officer, in an article published by Walmart News, relayed, “The U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund is part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s broader commitment to foster new economic growth and opportunity and create stronger communities.”
In Jan. 2013, Walmart announced its plan to help revive U.S. manufacturing by buying an additional $250 billion in products that support U.S. jobs by 2023. However, Walmart announced in January the closing of 154 U.S. stores, including two in Oregon.
Over the next five years, the Walmart Foundation will annually grant the five leading research and academic schools in the country a total of $2.84 million in donations for their research focused on textile production innovations. This year’s other four winning recipients included Clemson University, University of Texas at Austin, North Carolina State University, and Cornell University.