"Darling, if you really love me, please, clothe me in the colors of precious metals" is a quotation that strikes the heart of Dr. William Todd, and well it should.
Todd, a researcher in the Department of Veterinary Science at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, has developed a method for dyeing fabrics with precious metals -- and at an affordable cost.
It may not be long before people are wearing clothes colored with precious metals if the microbiologist has anything to say about it.
The process, which Todd developed along with Nell Morris, an Ag Center research associate, from their experience in biomedical research, uses minuscule amounts of metals -- particularly precious metals such as gold -- to infuse colors in a host of fabrics.
"Gold colloids are used in biomedical research and clinical diagnostics as sensitive signals to detect the presence of pathogens," Todd says. "These metal colloids are attached to antibodies for rapid diagnostic tests."
When working with diagnostic assays, Todd concluded the same properties that allow them to be used as diagnostic tools could also allow gold and other metals to be used as dyes.
So instead of putting these particles in solution for diagnosis, Todd found a way to put them into textiles for color.
"In nature, minerals are colorful," Todd says. "We found a way to put this color into fabrics."
The microbiologist uses a reagent to bond the metal particles deep into the textile fibers and make the metal actually a part of the chemistry of the filament. The chemicals of the fabric influence the color.
The actual hue is determined by a combination of the element itself, the size of the particle, the chemical nature of the particle and the interaction of the metal with the chemistry of the fabric.