Demands for colorful, cheap, and diverse dyes drove the transformation of chemistry into a modern science. To some, it may seem like dyestuffs are the stuff of times past. A dye collection recently donated to a university, however, might show that these compounds still hold the key to some cutting-edge chemistry problems.
Eastman Chemical has donated a dye collection spanning 50 years of the company’s research, beginning in the 1940s, to North Carolina State University. The library includes vials filled with vibrant powders, each meticulously hand-labeled; coordinating envelopes stuffed with dyed fabric swatches and testing data; and post-World War II intelligence reports on the German dye industry. The collection is named for the late Max A. Weaver, a longtime Eastman research leader who made the library his life’s work.
“This dye collection is a research treasure trove,” says David Hinks, director of the university’s Forensic Sciences Institute. NC State has agreed to build a digital database of the approximately 98,000 compounds. All of the structures, previously trade secrets, will become available to the public on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s ChemSpider database.