Dyes are all around us. They are a commodity that many take for granted. Dyes date back to the stone ages where plants provided the main source of pigments used for dyeing. One of the most popular and symbolic colors of all is the color purple. It was worn by kings and queens as a symbol of royalty, and was very expensive to obtain. The dye attributed to the color purple comes from the Indigo plant, which contains a molecule called Indican. Indican is a colorless molecule that has an attached glucose molecule. This substance only turns blue/indigo when it undergoes fermentation under alkaline conditions. When this happens, the glucose splits from the Indican producing Indoxol. Indoxol then oxidates in the presence of air and turns indigo forming the renowned molecule Indigotin (Indigo).
Have you ever wondered how we can see all of these beautiful colors? Well, it has to do with the color spectrum and how light is reflected and absorbed. Yes, remember ROYGBIV? All of that fun stuff that was taught in middle school? On the molecular level, color absorption is based on the alternating double and single bonds of the structure of a molecule. This is referred to as conjugation. The conjugation affects the wavelength of absorbed light therefore giving the molecule a signature color, or reflected visible light. The more conjugation a molecule has the greater visibility it will have. One man trying to synthetically create quinine, accidentally made a dye called mauve. This man was William Henry Perkin. His dye, when dissolved in ethanol, gleamed a deep purple hue. When tested on an array of materials it was found that this color was steadfast and proved to be a viable product.
Dyes have tremendously impacted history. For example, the famous phrase: “The red coats are coming!” The British were known as the redcoats because of their famous red petty coats. Also, during the industrial revolution, cotton textiles were in a very high demand; along with the colors used to dye them. This created jobs for countless people and had a major boost to the economy. The huge demand for dyes that had previously originated from plants also disrupted the world of chemistry. Chemists left and right were trying to produce the first synthetic dye to sell to the textile industry.
I completely agree with the author over these ideas, and admire his knowledge of the subject. The author’s argument was valid in the sense concerning the incredible impact of synthetic dyes. They transformed the world. The use of natural dyes basically vanished, and was taken over by industrialization and mass production. The synthetic production of dyes also provided the chemical knowledge for the production of antibiotics, analgesics, and other pharmaceutical compounds. I think that without dyes history would be bland. Imagine a place without any colorful molecules. Without them our world could never be the same.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Dyes

  1. athomsen56

    Great information on the subject! Good history and chemical importances, and easy to understand 🙂 I agree with the importance of dyes! It would be such a boring world without all of the colors!

  2. brookekowalski

    Great blog, Gabby! 🙂 I think that the alternating bonds being the cause of certain wavelengths being reflected, and ultimately the colors that we see is quite intriguing. Maybe a little more details on how dyes “changed the world”, though….like trading wise and the development of certain countries. I really enjoyed reading it!

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