An Oregon State University team of chemists has discovered a new shade of blue. The electric blue color, named “YInMn” for the elements it is composed of (yttrium, indium, and manganese), was the result of an accident. While experimenting with new materials, intended for use in electronics applications, OSU chemist Mas Subramanian and his team mixed the black-colored manganese oxide with other chemicals, heating them to nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, to create the bright blue color. “It was serendipity, actually; a happy, accidental discovery,” Subramanian said.
“The basic crystal structure we’re using for these pigments was known before, but no one had ever considered using it for any commercial purpose, including pigments,” he said. The university explained the science behind the color: “The new pigment is formed by a unique crystal structure that allows the manganese ions to absorb red and green wavelengths of light, while only reflecting blue. The vibrant blue is so durable, and its compounds are so stable—even in oil and water—that the color does not fade.”
OSU will license the pigment exclusively with The Shepherd Color Company, for a range of coatings and plastics. “This new blue pigment is a sign that there are new pigments to be discovered in the inorganic pigments family,” said Geoffrey T. Peake, research and development manager for The Shepherd Color Company. The pigment may also be used in roofing materials, as a “cool blue” compound that is more energy-efficient than other alternatives.
“The more we discover about the pigment, the more interesting it gets,” said Subramanian. “We already knew it had advantages of being more durable, safe and fairly easy to produce. Now it also appears to be a new candidate for energy efficiency.”