You are on page 1of 2

A brief idea on influence of pH & alkalinity in reactive dyeing

:
pH & alkalinity are two of the most misunderstood, but fundamentally important factors in all fibre cleaning & processing. pH is chemistry shorthand, & depending on who you listen to, pH stands for “Potential Hydrogen” or “Proton Hydrogen” (or “pouvoir hydrogene” for the French). All are correct, but it is preferred that proton hydrogen & it is easier to explain for our purposes. Now hydrogen is pretty fascinating stuff. First of all, it is the smallest of all of atomic elements & it has some serious attitude. It has an atomic weight of 1; a normal hydrogen atom consists of just one proton with one electron whizzing around it so fast that it forms a shell. Chemical symbol for atomic hydrogen is H. Now that sounds okay, but single hydrogen atoms just don’t exist as electrons don’t like operating alone; it takes a minimum of two electrons to form a shell. Hydrogen atoms get around this problem by teaming up in pairs so they can share their electrons means molecular hydrogen is made up of two protons & two electrons & is written H2. Hydrogen gas is made up of H2 molecules. It also means that hydrogen cannot exist as single hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen has one other option, however. It can get around completely starkersthat is butt naked-without any electrons at all. And this is very significant for us as cleaners. See, proton has a positive electrical charge & electron has an equal negative charge, so as long as they stay together they don’t make any trouble. But, if you separate these protons & get a bunch of them on their own, then they would play up like a second hand lawn-mower. Electrons get pretty rowdy. So what is it that comes between a proton & its electron & breaks up this happy picture of domestic bliss? This underrated stuff is the most potent chemical on planet. Water has power to rip hydrogen apart in a process called ionization. Here is kicker. Water is fuel that makes all of this work. Water is H2O, when we pull that water apart in an ionized solution; electrons stay together so that we get one proton which is H+. What is left is called a hydroxyl ion & it keeps that hydrogen’s electron so it is called OH-. A chemist would write this as H2O = H++OH-. Anyhow, it is this electrical activity that makes these protons & hydroxyls mean dangerous little characters. Now for this to happen there have to be ionizing compound dissolved in water. Pure water won’t dissociate on its own. That’s why electronics cleaning systems use pure or de-ionized water. There are two kinds of impurities that cause water to break up in this way: ⇒ One kind is called acid & ⇒ Other kind is called alkali or base. Generally, an acid is a substance that releases a positively charged proton into a solution. A base is a chemical that releases a – OH - ion into a solution with its negatively charged electron. Now chemists had this figured out a long time ago by a Swede called Arrhenius & a Brit named Lowry worked out that all acids & alkalis work this way. A bit later, a Dane named Sorensen noticed that not all acids & alkalis have same kick. Some alkalis & acids are really potent, while others are as weak as gnats. He came up with an idea that we had to have a way of measuring degree of ionization in a solution; perhaps for compelling reason that it had a huge bearing on
A brief idea on influence of pH & alkalinity in reactive dyeing: Compiled by: M. Rezaul Karim Tutul Page: 1

So.e. They can be protected by acidic buffers or damaged by alkaline buffers. means they don’t like alkalis... Organic fibres such as wool & silk are made of proteins called polyamides because they are composed of amino acids. nylon & dyes used on them) are acidic. which can be verified with pH paper or a pocket pH meter. available in a solution at any one time. alkalis. They are quite happy in a neutral or slightly acid environment.e. Nylons are synthetic polyamides that have a comparable acid chemistry & acid dyes used on these are. wool. what he came up with was pH scale. all of these textile materials (i. more is involved than simply measuring pH. A brief idea on influence of pH & alkalinity in reactive dyeing: Compiled by: M. silk. This is a logarithmic scale that is arbitrarily zeroed at a value of 7 representing neutral (i. but any level of alkalinity harm them sooner or later. Rezaul Karim Tutul Page: 2 . of course. buffering & titration Let’s talk about alkalinity & buffering. because it is far simpler to focus on pH. pH can be simply defined as number of ions.flavour of beer. Acids. also acidic. positive or negative. Alkalis are always much more damaging to organic materials than acids. no ionization). Alkalinity issue is rarely discussed. So far.