I read through The Chemistry of Natural Dyes by Dianne N. Epp and WOAH did I learn a lot! And now I have an explanation for what’s going on which is personally exciting! In this post I’m gonna talk about Keratin. It’s what wool is made out of.
Keratin is a protein. This protein is in everything! It’s in human nails, hair, skin, wool, hooves, etc. According to The Chemistry of Natural Dyes, keratin’s molar mass is about 60,000. Keratin is a complex polypeptide polymer made from 18 types of amino acids. Since I didn’t know what a polypeptide was, I’ll explain a little what it is.
A peptide is chain of amino acids. And an amino acid is a type of chemical structure that has an amine group (NH3, NH2, NR3…), carboxylic acid group (has Carbons, hydrogens and oxygens), and a side chain, known as R. A side chain is a unique hydrocarbon that attaches to amino acids.
If you see in the picture, it’s in a swirly structure called an α-helix (alpha-helix). The hydrogen bonds between the amino acids is what causes it to scrunch like that.