Web Date: April 26, 2007
Mauveine Reveals A More Colorful Secret
Two new compounds have been identified in museum samples of mauveine, the distinctive purple dye that serendipitously launched the synthetic dye industry and the start of global industrialization 150 years ago (Chem. Commun., DOI: 10.1039/b618926a).
In 1856, William Henry Perkin accidentally invented mauveine while working on a synthesis of quinine, the antimalarial drug that was critical to British colonial interests at the time. The 18-year-old undergraduate subsequently abandoned his studies to commercialize the dye.
Perkin was unable to establish the composition of mauveine, but he knew it consisted of more than one aniline-based compound. In 1994, researchers positively identified two mauveine isomers in historic dye samples by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Now, a team led by Jo??o S. Seixas de Melo of the University of Coimbra and Maria Jo??o Melo of New University of Lisbon, both in Portugal, reports using high-performance liquid chromatography to identify two additional compounds in mauveine.
The four mauveine compounds now known differ from one another in the number of methyl groups (two, three, or four) and their location. The team confirmed its findings by using Perkin???s original mauveine recipe to synthesize and characterize a new sample.
The original purpose of the research, which is ongoing, was to obtain pure compounds in order to study the spectroscopic properties and the photostability of mauveine, Seixas de Melo tells C&EN.
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