Chemistry of Paint.

The Scientific American 10, 7.3.1868

Hitherto but very little attention has ever been given to the above subject by our leading chemists, but a work has recently appeared, published by the celebrated Dutch chemist, Mulder, in which a vast amount of useful information on this point is imparted, and much of the mystery connected with the chemical action of the different paints is satisfactorily explained. The starting point of his investigations was an inquiry as to the best material to protect iron from rust. The result has been his rejection of all oil paints as unlikely to answer the purpose, and his conclusion that coal tar contains the best materials for a protecting coat. The author very completely investigated the nature of paint, and the chemical changes involved in the drying of oils. As regards linseed oil, we are told that the essential constituent is "linolein," a compound of glycerin and linoleic acid. The latter body the author could not obtain quite pure, but he decades that its formula is HO, C32H27O3. When exposed to air linoleic acid rapidly oxidizes, first to "linoxic acid," a sticky body resembling turpentine. On longer exposure, "linoxyn" is produced. This is a tough leathery substance, sharing, we may say, many of the properties of caoutchouc. It is soluble in the same menstrua, and can be vulcanized like indiarubber. It is manufactured in considerable quantities in this country, and is the binding material used to consolidate emery wheels. It forms also the surface of linoleum cloth. According to Mulder, there are two linoxyns, the white and red; the white modifications become red on exposure to 80° Centigrade, and the red again turns white on exposure to sunlight. The browning of white paint in dark places the author ascribes to the gradual change of white linoxyn into red. Oxidation does not end with the production of linoxyn. It stall proceeds to the complete decay of the material, as is seen in very old paint.

One useful result of Mulder's labor is a simple process for preparing a good colorless drying oil. For this purpose it is only necessary to boil linseed oil for two hours with three per cent of red lead, filter it, and then expose it to sunlight in large shallow vessels, frequently renewing the air above. Another result is a denial of the existence of albuminous and gummy matter in linseed oil, to which are ascribed the slowness of drying of unboiled oils. For these matters Mulder searched in vain, and at last came to the conclusion that they had no existence. Oxides and acetates of lead, he tells us, act as driers, not by precipitating albuminous matters, but by forming a little linoleate of lead, which rapidly oxidizes and communicates its activity to the oil.

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