• Leather

    The success of the Indian leather industry is the story of a fruitful partnership between research and industry. The transition in the Indian leather industry has come about largely due to the concerted efforts of scientists and technologists of the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI), Chennai. It has played an important role in the modernization of the Indian leather industry helping it to keep pace with the changing needs. Today the institute is the largest and most empowered of all R&D institutes for leather in the world.

    CSIR has further enhanced its position and status in the Indian leather sector as the apex and main advocacy body in leather in assisting the preparation of the Tenth Plan programmes of the industry and delivering a number of viable technology solutions to the leather sector.


    CSIR's mandate in the sector is, to enable and empower the Indian leather sector through generation, development and extension of technologies and participate in the emergence of a knowledge society in leather by way of traceable impact on capacity building.


    Knowledge-based Products/Technologies Developed and Basic Findings

    Leather Processing

    A paradigm shift in leather processing from chemical to bioprocessing is in the offing on account of R&D initiatives of CLRI.

    Technology innovations towards cleaner processing using do-ecology solutions have been made. It has been possible to reduce the emission of BOD and COD loads per ton of leather processed by 30-40% by the implementation of cleaner technologies.

    Often the raw hides/skins are preserved at source using common salt. The salt is removed prior to tanning through an operation known as soaking. Soaking contributes to the pollution load of salts in the effluents. Prevention or reduction of pollution at source has been considered a viable and strategic option. Technologies for reduction of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in the tannery effluent through in-process changes have been developed. This includes desalting methodologies, segregation of soak liquor and treatment thereof. Desalting has led to reduction of 15% load of TDS at the solar pans.

    A process of enzymatic de-hairing has been developed that scores over the conventional processes that employ lime and sulfide for de-hairing. Commercially available enzymes have been used to replace 50-60 % of sodium sulfide loads required in conventional processes. Enzymatic de-hairing has considerably reduced the TDS load by about 15%. Risk-free and fail-safe technologies for de-hairing based on enzymes alone but without the aid of any chemical would gain for India a global leadership in technologies. India is at the threshold of developing such an enzyme-only solution for de-hairing as a part of New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative. Ammonia- free carbon dioxide de-liming has gained commercial acceptance. Microprocessor controlled systems for tannery operations have been developed and implemented.

    CLRI has also developed synthetic tanning agents, also called syntans, such as Alcrotan and Alutan. These agents did not have international equivalents at the time of commercialization in India in 1986. Syntans are environmentally and ecologically more compatible and can be used along with the traditional tanning agent, chromium. Poor utilization of chromium results in elimination of the salts in the effluent thereby contributing to the pollution load. Chrome tanning is associated with low exhaustion levels, in some tanneries at about 40%. The chrome tanning sectional stream may contain about 1500-3000 ppm of chrome depending on the absorption levels causing ecological concern. A comprehensive chrome management system has been developed. Chrome recovery and recycling technologies have been implemented in more than 500 tanneries. The high exhaustion cleaner chrome tanning process offers overall reduction in chemical cost in addition to significant environmental benefits.

    R&D Applications in Environmental Science & Technology

    • Control of Total Dissolved Solids at the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) in Pemambut and Dindigul: Efforts have been made by CLRI to provide viable technology solutions for resolving the issue of TDS. By way of process changes and assistance in implementation of inplani control measures the discharge levels of TDS at the Common Effluent Treatment Plants at Pernambut and Dindigul were reduced by 60-65%.
    • Secure Environmental Solutions for a New Emerging Leather Complex in Perundurai-Erode: A group of 25 tanneries in Erode are relocating to a new leather complex in Perundurai. An integrated environmental management plan is being custom-designed for the proposed leather complex in Perundurai.
    • R&D Demonstration of an Integrated UASB Technology for the Modernization of CETP at Dindigul: The Common Effluent Treatment Plant for the tanneries in Dindigul is being modernized through the application of Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (UASB) reactor based technology for exclusive treatment of tannery wastewaters for the first time in world.
    • Modernization of Common Effluent Treatment Plants in India: A comprehensive national plan to modernize all functional CETPs in India has gained momentum and region specific initiatives have been commissioned.
    • Leather Complexes: Design and development of leather complexes have been taken up. CLRI is involved in the planning and setting up of the Calcutta Leather Complex, Kolkata.

    Technologies Commercialized

    Leather Chemicals

    • Acrylic soft binder
    • Acrylic medium soft binder
    • Acrylic syntan
    • Formaldehyde- free chrome syntan
    • Formaldehyde- free polymeric syntan
    • Vegetable tanning extract
    • ALUTAN
    • Fatliquor
    • Keratin hydrolysate

    Leather Processing

    • Buffalo automotive upholstery leather
    • Stropping disc leather
    • Exotic leather processing
    • Sludge free liming
    • High exhaust chrome tanning
    • Do-ecology solutions
    • Chrome recovery and reuse in leather processing
    • Dye-free colouring and mineral- free tanning of leathers
    • Bio-methanation
    • Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (UASB) technology
    • Chemo Autotrophic Activated Carbon (CAACO)
    • System for treatment of tannery effluents
    • Protease for application in leather processing
    • Add-on process control systems for modernization of tanneries
    • Technologies for collagen sheet and reconstituted collagen products
    • Fallen carcass recovery systems for decentralized production


    • Diabetic footwear
    • Enzymatic products
    • Improved footwear as an orthosis

    Waste Utilization

    • Fleshing meal
    • Dog chew
    • Protein hydrolysate from proteinaceous chrome wastes
    • Parchment -like material and its value added use
    • Hydrolysed feather meal
    • Leather- like sheet
    • Simultaneous recovery of chromium and iron from chromite ore

    Basic Findings

    Biological Sciences

    • Insight into connective tissue disorders associated with myocardial infarction
    • Epidermal cell cultures for wound and burn management
    • Controlled drug delivery systems for chronic disorders based on collagen and biomaterials
    • Isolation of a lipase from strains of micro organism for applications in degreasing
    • Identification of a new type of collagen from invertebrate sources
    • Molecular mechanism of chromium induced apoptosis of human lymphocytes

    Chemical Sciences

    • Polymer rheology with special relevance to interpenetrating networks and polymer alloys
    • Novel conducting polymers for LCD applications
    • Investigations on molecular organization and long range ordering to induce crystallization
    • Chromium induced abnormalities in biomolecules and mechanistic insights into biotoxicity of the metal ion
    • Novel peptides for dis-aggregation of amyloids and applications in neurology
    • Novel organic synthetic methodologies for heterocyclic compounds
    • Synthetic methods for lead molecules based on bio-preservatives

    Engineering Sciences

    • Neural networks applications in design and analysis of pH controllers, pattern recognition of leather surface and prediction of dye composition
    • Application of power ultrasound in leather processing
    • Study on role of free radical quenchers on charge transfer polymerization
    • Thermokinetic modelling for safe scale up of polymerization reactions by micro-calorimetry
    • Solubilization of proteins, enzymes and amino acids by reverse micelles
    • Studies on sludge disintegration by cavitation method

    Leather Related Sciences

    • Indian foot sizing systems based on survey and new non-linear regression analysis
    • Software applications for diagnosis of flat foot
    • Metal induced long range ordering in collagen and structure-activity relations in chrome tanning
    • An approach towards a new unified theory for tanning

    Physical Sciences

    • Novel NMR imaging techniques - fluid ingress and wide band regimes; applications to soaps and leather
    • Indirect 13C imaging - new pulse sequence family and applications to polymer blends, eggs and plants in vivo; Indirect 13C Echo Planar Imaging sequence
    • Development of new NMR probe and receiver designs
    • Development of novel EPR imaging techniques
    • 2-Dimensional tensile testing technique and a testing device
    • New stain for Transmission Electron Microscopic studies
    • New insights into protein relaxation models to correlate visco-elastic function of collagen
    • Insights into aggregation behaviour of DNA through molecular modelling approach and investigations on solvational behaviour in DNA organization.


    • To emerge a global leader in leather research and sustain such leadership
    • To cause paradigm shifts in technologies by rendering leather-making 'bio' rather than 'chemical' processing of skin
    • To increase ten-fold the global presence by technology servicing
    • To source about 55% of the total budgetary needs from external sources
    • To generate R&D outcome in the country to gain 10-14% of the global trade in value terms through technology innovations
    • To hold about 35% of the global IPR products generated in leather during 2000-2010
    • To enable India in aggressive marketing of leather products through market intelligence, database generation and resource management
    • To emerge as a technology supermarket for global leather industry and gain about 10% of the market for technology products
    • To gain for Indian leather industry, environmental security with near zero environmental risk within five years and
    • To assist India build a technology culture in leather sector through an HRD mission and networking of institutional capabilities by playing the mother institute in capacity building such that unit value realization from Indian leather products register a 20-25% increase over the next five years.