WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2013 — From crimson red to lavender to mustard yellow, vibrant hues can be coaxed from common — and a few uncommon — ingredients to add color to fabrics. The American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) Bytesize Science series explains the chemistry behind natural dyes with a new episode filmed at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn. The episode is available now on www.BytesizeScience.com.
“The process of this is taking natural things from the earth like fruits and vegetables, different roots … and taking the color from them and translating them into a fiber,” says Sahara Johnson, an intern at the Textile Arts Center. In the video, she demonstrates how to dye material using ingredients from the grocery store — plus one color source that’s a little harder to get, a bug found on cacti. Johnson pours chopped red cabbage into one large metal pot. Into another, she adds cochineal bugs, which have been used for centuries for their red pigment.
As Johnson dyes white silk lavender and pink in the pots of colored water, the video explains the chemistry of the different dyes and how acidity can change their colors. Acidic lemon juice, for example, can turn a bowl of cabbage dye from purple to red, but adding baking soda, which is basic, transforms it into a blue-green hue.
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The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.