Azo (Hydrazone) pigments: General principles

Robert Christie*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents an overview of the general chemical principles underlying the structures, synthesis and technical performance of azo pigments, the dominant chemical class of industrial organic pigments in the yellow, orange, and red shade areas, both numerically and in terms of tonnage manufactured. A description of the most significant historical features in this group of pigments is provided, starting from the discovery of the chemistry on which azo colorants are based by Griess in the mid-nineteenth century, through the commercial introduction of the most important classical azo pigments in the early twentieth century, including products known as the Hansa Yellows, β-naphthol reds, including metal salt pigments, and the diarylide yellows and oranges, to the development in the 1950s and 1960s of two classes of azo pigments that exhibit high performance, disazo condensation pigments and benzimidazolone-based azo pigments. A feature that complicates the description of the chemical structures of azo pigments is that they exist in the solid state as the ketohydrazone rather than the hydroxyazo form, in which they have been traditionally been illustrated. Numerous structural studies conducted over the years on an extensive range of azo pigments have demonstrated this feature. In this text, they are referred to throughout as azo (hydrazone) pigments. Since a common synthetic procedure is used in the manufacture of virtually all azo (hydrazone) pigments, this is discussed in some detail, including practical aspects. The procedure brings together two organic components as the fundamental starting materials, a diazo component and a coupling component. An important reason for the dominance of azo (hydrazone) pigments is that they are highly cost-effective. The syntheses generally involve low cost, commodity organic starting materials and are carried out in water as the reaction solvent, which offers obvious economic and environmental advantages. The versatility of the approach means that an immense number of products may be prepared, so that they have been adapted structurally to meet the requirements of many applications. On an industrial scale, the processes are straightforward, making use of simple, multi-purpose chemical plant. Azo pigments may be produced in virtually quantitative yields and the processes are carried out at or below ambient temperatures, thus presenting low energy requirements. Finally, provided that careful control of the reaction conditions is maintained, azo pigments may be prepared directly by an aqueous precipitation process that can optimise physical form, with control of particle size distribution, crystalline structure, and surface character. The applications of azo pigments are outlined, with more detail reserved for subsequent papers on individual products.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-141
Number of pages9
JournalPhysical Sciences Reviews
Issue number3
Early online date22 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • azo
  • azo coupling
  • coupling component
  • diazo component
  • diazotization
  • disazo
  • hydrazone
  • monoazo
  • pigment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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