The latest product in a long tradition – the search for a perfect blue pigment – is about to reach the market. A new blue pigment, which was discovered in 2009 by chemists at Oregon State University, demonstrates that there are still new pigments to be discovered.
What is of particular interest is that the discovery was what department leader, OSU chemist Mas Subramanian, describes as “serendipity, actually; a happy, accidental discovery”. Subramanian and his team were experimenting with potential materials for electronics applications when they mixed black manganese oxide with other chemicals and heated them to a high temperature. One of the samples turned a vivid blue.
The team reports that “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”.
The pigment, which is known as “YInMn” blue – from its elemental makeup, which includes yttrium, indium and manganese – will not only provide artists with another blue to add to their palette, it will be used in a wide range of coatings and plastics. There has also been interest from art restorers. Subramanian explains that “our pigment is useful for art restoration, because it is similar to ultramarine but really more durable.”
The pigment’s characteristics mean that it is completely non-toxic, and can be applied to a range of products, for example to keep buildings cool by reflecting infrared light when used in paint or even in green (or in this case, blue) roofing materials. Its infrared reflectivity (about 40 percent) is much higher than other blue pigments, so YInMn blue may play a role in energy efficiency.
Subramanian says that “ever since the early Egyptians developed some of the first blue pigments, the pigment industry has been struggling to address problems with safety, toxicity and durability.”
The team at OSU will continue to test the new blue for other applications, but will also be attempting to discover more new pigments. “Who knows what we may find?,” says Subramanian.
Maria Cox, MMTA
Licensing agreement reached on brilliant new blue pigment discovered by happy accident by Mark Floyd, 27/05/15
Mas Subramanian, Oregan State University
The Chemist Who Discovered the World’s Newest Blue Explains Its Miraculous Properties, Artnet. Copyright 2016.
Sarah Cascone, Monday, June 20, 2016