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How Is Synthetic Dye Made?

Updated April 17, 2017

Until the middle of the 19th century, textiles were dyed exclusively using natural materials. Modern synthetic dye production, however, requires a series of chemical reactions.

History

The first synthetic dye, mauve, was discovered in 1856 by William Henry Perkin as he attempted to synthesise quinine. Mauve was an aniline dye, derived from a poisonous, oily, organic compound---in other words, a carbon compound---called aniline (C6H5NH2).

Modern Methods

Modern synthetic dyes are exclusively organic compounds. Developments in dye chemistry and finishing methods have produced a range of synthetic dyes that are easy to handle and colour-fast. The range includes acid dyes, azoic dyes and chrome or mordant dyes.

Indigo

Indigo---a blue dye used to dye jeans---was originally a plant extract but is now produced by the reaction of sodamide with phenylglycine at a temperature of 200 degrees Celsius to produce indoxyl, which reacts with oxygen to form indigo dye.

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About the Author

A full-time writer since 2006, David Dunning is a professional freelancer specializing in creative non-fiction. His work has appeared in "Golf Monthly," "Celtic Heritage," "Best of British" and numerous other magazines, as well as in the book "Defining Moments in History." Dunning has a Master of Science in computer science from the University of Kent.