How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 792

Why do colors fade in the sun? - RD
While light travels as electromagnetic waves, it's emitted and absorbed as particles called "photons." Each photon carries with it a tiny bit of energy. The amount of energy in a photon depends on the wavelength of the light associated with it. While a photon of red light contains too little energy to cause chemical processes to occur in most molecules, a particle of violet or ultraviolet light contains enough energy to cause significant chemical damage to a typical molecule. Since sunlight contains a substantial amount of violet and ultraviolet lights, it can cause a fair amount of chemistry to occur in the molecules that absorb it. That's why colors often fade in sunlight. Many colored molecules are relatively fragile and are damaged by photons of ultraviolet light. The portion of a dye molecule that gives it its color is called a "chromophore" and is usually the most fragile part of the molecule. Destroying its chromophore will often leave a dye molecule colorless. Exposure to sunlight was the traditional way to bleach fabrics and make them white.

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