Introduction to the Use of Reactive Dyes in Biotechnology

  • C. R. Lowe


Dyes are coloured substances which can be applied in solution or dispersion to a substrate such as a textile fibre, paper, leather, hair, fur, plastics, wax, cosmetic base or foodstuff and bestow on the substrate a coloured appearance. In most cases, the substrate to be dyed possesses a natural affinity for the dye and readily absorbs it from solution or aqueous dispersion under suitable conditions of concentration, pH and temperature. As a result of this chemical affinity between substrate and dye, dyed substrates usually show some resistance to washing, although the property of fastness varies considerably. The first commercial synthetic dye, mauveine, a member of the safranine class of azine dyes, was introduced by Perkin in 1856 by the oxidation of aniline containing o- and p-toluidines, although its chemical constitution was not established until many years later. Working rules relating colour and dyeing properties with chemical composition emerged as more and more dyes were discovered. Thus, in 1868 it was suggested that colour was associated with unsaturation, since all the then known synthetic dyes could be decolorised by reduction (Graebe and Liebermann, 1868). This view was amplified when it was noted that the colour of organic dyes was associated with certain unsaturated functions, termed chromophores, and often comprising nitro, nitroso, azo, ethene and carbonyl groups (Witt, 1876).


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