Monday, 15 February 2010

Is Indigo Natural or Synthetic !! How was it manufactured earlier

The answer to the first part of question is "Both".

Indigo belongs to the category of water insoluble dyes.

It was first mentioned in a book in 13 BC by the name of Indian Blue. It is said that it has been used for dyeing in India and China 2000 BC. 

Originally it was made from Indigo plant.  The plant came to Europe in the 16th century via India. The leaves and stalk were kept in a vat filled with water and human urine. During this process, hydrogen was created by micro-organisms and acted as a reducing agent. It transformed the dyestuff in a water insoluble form. 

This fermented mass was stirred with poles. The reason for doing this was to transform the indigo into its water insoluble form again by oxidation. These water insoluble particles could then deposit on the bottom of the stationery vat. 

Then the liquid standing above was drained and a thin mash was left which was dried in open air and was put on the market in pressed or powder form.

Thus indigo started as a natural dye. However later it got manufactured using synthetic means.  In 1880  Adolf von Bayer succeeded in carrying out the first synthetic production of Indigo. In 1897, BASF was able to carry out the industrial scale production of Indigo. Now synthetic dyestuff has replaced the natural one almost completely. 

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