Maya Blue: A Clay-Organic Pigment?

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Science  04 Nov 1966:
Vol. 154, Issue 3749, pp. 645-646
DOI: 10.1126/science.154.3749.645


Maya Blue, a pigment used by the Mayas in Yucatan, is remarkably stable: the color is not destroyed by hot concentrated mineral acids or by heating to about 250°C. The principal constituent is the colorless mineral attapulgite. It is proposed that the pigment is an adsorption complex of attapulgite and natural indigo; a synthetic equivalent may be prepared from attapulgite and either indoxylester or indigo, or by applying the vat-dyeing technique, with reduced indigo.The low dye content of the pigment (less than 0.5 percent) indicates that the dye is absorbed only on the external surfaces of the attapulgite particles and not throughout the channels in their structures. The complex as such is not stable to acids, but the stability displayed by Maya Blue is achieved simply by heating the complex to from 75° to 150°C for several days. An analogous stable pigment can be prepared from sepiolite and indigo. No stable pigments could be prepared from clays with platelike structures or from zeolites.