Professor Mas Subramanantian and his team of scientists recently made history when their newly discovered pigment, YInMn blue, was included in the Forbes Pigment Collection at the Harvard Art Museums, which serves as world history of color, with some pigments dating back to the Middle Ages. What’s more, the brilliantly bright shade of blue was discovered by complete accident and contains a number of miraculous properties that can prove to be a game changer for creatives and the environment alike.
“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,” said Subramanian in a statement released by the Oregon State University. Existing blue pigment alternatives such as ultramarine or cobalt blue are made from toxic chemicals, while this new pigment is fairly easy to create from all organic, non-toxic ingredients — making the discovery a major breakthrough.
In 2009, Subramanian, a professor at Oregon State University, was running experiments designed to create new materials for electronics. During one of those tests, he and his team stumbled upon the unexpected discovery when they mixed black manganese oxide with a variety of chemicals and heated them to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The manganese ions absorb red and green wavelengths of light, producing a vibrant, near-perfect shade of blue that doesn’t fade in oil or water.
The vivid blue pigment has a number of interesting properties. It’s more durable, safe and fairly easy to produce compared to current alternatives. It also appears to be a new candidate for energy efficiency as it it’s very good at reflecting infrared light. “A roof painted in YInMn blue could potentially help keep the building cooler”, Subramanian explains.
The world’s newest shade of blue is still undergoing testing before it will be made more widely available, but it has been licensed for commercial use by the Shepherd Color Company and is already in the hands of some (mainly local) artists — such as visual arts major and intern in Subramanian’s lab, Madelaine Corbin, who is using YinMn blue in her artwork.
YinMn seems to have a bright future ahead of it. Several companies have been working with the Shepherd Color Company and there have been plenty of inquiries from people on the more creative end. Subramanian has also fielded interest from art restorers. “Our pigment is useful for art restoration, because it is similar to ultramarine but really more durable,” he explained