The New Shade Of Blue Recently Discovered Is Finally About To Hit The Market

In 2009, Oregon State University scientists accidentally discovered a new shade of blue, a beautiful, incredibly vibrant hue dubbed “YInMn blue.” Now, it’s looking like the new shade of blue will soon hit the market. YInMn blue is a versatile pigment with properties that make it desirable in a variety of contexts; you may soon be seeing it cropping up everywhere from roofing materials to artists' supplies.

A team of OSU chemists led by Mas Subramanian stumbled on the new hue in 2009. “We were trying to find a material with novel magnetic properties for electronics applications, but it didn’t work,” Subramanian explained in a press release. He and his colleagues had been pairing manganese oxide with other chemicals and heating them to almost 2,000 degrees F. Subramanian said he expected the compounds to be brown or black, so he was shocked when one came out a rich blue. “It was serendipity, actually; a happy, accidental discovery,” he said. The chemists named the color “YInMn blue” because it contains the elements Yttrium, Indium and Manganese.

YInMn blue is more than a pretty face: its compounds are extremely stable and resilient, meaning that it won’t fade, even when exposed to oil or water. It also “has infrared reflectivity of about 40 percent” (much higher than that of other blue shades), according to a press release, which means that it could be very useful for energy conservation; if, for example, you painted a roof with YInMn blue, the color would help your building stay cooler.

YInMn blue is also nontoxic, something that is harder to come by than you might think. “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,” Subramanian said.

Subramanian has been working with developers to make YInMn blue available for commercial consumption. In 2015, Shepherd Color Company gained an exclusive license for the color. “This new blue pigment is a sign that there are new pigments to be discovered in the inorganic pigments family,” said Geoffrey T. Peake, the research and development manager of the company. According to artnet News, Shepherd Color Company has samples of YInMn blue for sale, and is conducting tests on the pigment before releasing it to a wide audience. Subramanian told artnet News that “[s]everal companies have been working with [Shepherd Color Company]” to develop new blue products.

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