The word alizarin derives from the Arabic al-usara, juice.
By 1804, the English dye maker George Field had refined the technique to lake madder by treating it with alum, and an alkali, that converts the water-soluble madder extract into a solid, insoluble pigment. This resulting madder lake has a longer-lasting color, and can be used more versatilely, for example by blending it into a paint. Over the following years, it was found that other metal salts, including those containing iron, tin, and chromium, could be use in place of alum to give madder-based pigments of various other colors. This general method of preparing lakes has been known for centuries.
In 1826, the French chemist Pierre-Jean Robiquet found that madder root contained two colorants, the red alizarin and the more rapidly fading purpurin. The alizarin component became the first natural dye to be synthetically duplicated in 1868 when the German chemists Carl Graebe and Carl Liebermann, working for BASF, found a way to produce it from anthracene. About the same time, the English dye chemist William Henry Perkin independently discovered the same synthesis, although the BASF group filed their patent before Perkin by only one day.
The synthetic alizarin could be produced for a fraction of the cost of the natural product, and the market for madder collapsed virtually overnight. The principal synthesis entailed oxidation of anthraquinone-2-sulfonic acid with sodium nitrate in concentrated sodium hydroxide. Alizarin itself has been in turn largely replaced today by the more light-resistant quinacridone pigments developed at DuPont in 1958.
In clinical practice it is also used to stain synovial fluid to assess for basic calcium phosphate crystals.
At right is displayed the color alizarin crimson.
WIPO ASSIGNS PATENT TO FUJIFILM FOR "METHOD FOR PREPARING ALIZARIN DERIVATIVE COMPOUND, NOVEL ALIZARIN DERIVATIVE COMPOUND, SURFACE MODIFICATION METHOD, PHOTOELECTRIC CONVERSION FILM, PHOTOELECTRIC CONVERSION ELEMENT, AND ELECTROPHOTOGRAPHIC PHOTORECEPTOR" (JAPANESE INVENTORS)
Jun 22, 2011; GENEVA, June 22 -- Publication No. WO/2011/071130 was published on June 16. Title of the invention: "METHOD FOR PREPARING...
Resonance Light Scattering Spectrum of the Alizarin Green-CTMAB-Nucleic Acids System and Determination of Nucleic Acids at Nanogram Levels
Feb 01, 2007; The interaction of anionic dye alizarin green (AG) and nucleic acids in the presence of cetyltrimethylammonium bromide...
Patent No. 7,563,592 Assigned to Biomerieux for Alizarin-Based Chromogenic Substrates, their Uses and Composition Containing Same on July 21 (British Inventors)
Jul 24, 2009; ALEXANDRIA, Va., July 23 -- Lyle Armstrong of Ashington, Great Britain, and Arthur James of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Great Britain,...