Online analysis of indigo, hydrosulfite, and other parameters in textile dye baths

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The size of the indigo molecule makes it difficult to dye synthetic fibers, but the large pores of cellulose (such as in cotton) accept it readily. Indigo is insoluble in water, so it must first be reduced to the water-soluble leuco-indigo form by sodium hydrosulfite in a strong alkaline bath. Good circulation within the bath is imperative for consistent dye coverage, but care must be taken not to introduce any oxygen. Fabrics must be oxidized between dips in the dye bath in order to set the indigo within the pores of the fibers, but multiple dips are necessary for darker, uniform coverage. Many parameters need to be monitored and controlled to ensure high quality of the end product: the pH value for proper NaOH (alkali) dosage, the concentrations of both hydrosulfite and indigo, as well as the temperature of the bath and even the redox potential.