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August 5th, 2005
Mayan Blue Pigment: Vegetable or Mineral?
The Eighth Century Mayans started their own brand of molecular engineering with a local clay called Palygorskite. This Magnesium Aluminum Silicate based translucent mineral has a structure of narrow channels, somewhat mimicking nanotubes, which are water filled. Upon baking out the water and adding the indigo dye, the newly freed chemical bonds inside the fiber like structures strongly attach to the already snug fitting indigo molecules. In the end it’s a hybrid organic-inorganic nanocomposite in which the inorganic lattice hosts and protects the organic dye.
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