January 7, 2013 – Throughout history, people of wealth, power and influence have been adorning themselves and their prized possessions with gold. However, thanks to a recent scientific study, they soon may be able to attach themselves to the precious metal like never before.
Recent findings released by the American Chemical Society revealed that a scientific team has used gold nanoparticles to dye human hair – specifically white hair. The scientific process led to the first ever synthesis of fluorescent gold nanoparticles inside human hair.
The team of scientists, led by Philippe Walter, was able to infuse hair with the gold nanoparticles, which are so small that between 40,000 and 60,000 of them can fit across the width of a single strand of hair. The only catch? While the hair does take on a pale yellow or golden blonde hue temporarily, the chemical reaction quickly continues, finalizing at a deep brunette hue.
In their report, Walter and his team described the “dying” process, which involved soaking white hairs in a solution of a gold compound. The hairs turned pale yellow and then darkened to a deep brown. Using an electron microscope, the scientists confirmed that the particles were forming inside the hairs’ central core cortex. The color remained even after repeated washings
The discovery has ramifications beyond fashion and style, as the same methodology can be applied to the development of electronic sensors and materials with improved properties.
Scientists are exploring uses, ranging from electronics and sensors to medical diagnostic tests and cancer treatments. Before this effort, gold nanoparticles had been successfully deposited on hair for use as electrodes, and gold nanoparticles had been used to dye wool.
Walter’s team was inspired to pursue this new use of gold — dyeing hair – by the ancient Greeks and Romans who used lead, an entirely different type of metal, to color their hair.
It remains unclear if this process will be adopted by the fashion industry at large, and what the cost of loading up one’s locks of hair with gold nanoparticles might be. But one wonders what the market may be for “Golden Brown” hair.
Image: American Chemical Society