Scientists accidentally discovers a new blue shade which never fades
United States, June 30: Discoveries can often come as a surprise, even to those who make them – and a discovery made by a graduate student in Oregon is no different.
The student had been experimenting with magnanese oxides, looking into their electronic properties, when he found one of his samples had turned a brilliant blue colour.
This particular blue was a new shade of the colour, and the new pigment might even help make buildings more energy efficient.
The unexpected finding solved a quest that began thousands of years ago, and captured the imagination of ancient Egyptians, the Han dynasty in China, Mayan cultures and others – to develop a near-perfect blue pigment.
Professor Mas Subramanian and his team from Oregon State University accidentally discovered ‘YInMn blue’ in 2009. The team have recently made the colour commercially available.
The pigment was named after the elements that make it up.
‘Basically, this was an accidental discovery,’ said Professor Subramanian, the Milton Harris Professor of Materials Science in the OSU Department of Chemistry.
‘We were exploring manganese oxides for some interesting electronic properties they have, something that can be both ferroelectric and ferromagnetic at the same time.
‘Our work had nothing to do with looking for a pigment.
‘Then one day a graduate student who is working in the project was taking samples out of a very hot furnace while I was walking by, and it was blue, a very beautiful blue,’ Professor Subramanian said.
‘I realised immediately that something amazing had happened.’
At about 1,200 degrees Celsius (almost 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit) the otherwise innocuous manganese oxide turns into a vivid blue compound.
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 colour is now commercially available, and some artists already use it.
‘I have sent samples to artists who have used the pigment in their artwork,’ Professor Subramanian told Art Net.
So far, those artists have been mainly local, including Madelaine Corbin, a student who has been using YInMn blue in her artwork.
But this is not just another colour, according to Professor Subramanian.
The material has some properties that make it particularly special.
YInMn, Professor Subramanian said, is ‘more durable, safe and fairly easy to produce… it also appears to be a new candidate for energy efficiency,’ because it reflects a large amount of infrared light.
A roof painted in YInMn blue could potentially help keep the building cooler, he added.
This new blue pigment is a sign that there are new pigments to be discovered in the inorganic pigments family,’ said Geoffrey Peake, the research and development manager of the Shepherd Color Company, which has licensed the patent is already selling samples of YInMn blue.
The pigment is also to resist heat and acid, is environmentally benign and icheap to produce from a readily available mineral.
The pigment is still undergoing testing before it is made more widely available.
‘Our pigment is useful for art restoration, because it is similar to ultramarine but really more durable,’ Professor Subramanian added.