First New Blue in 200 Years

Azure, cobalt, indigo or ultramarine blue: We know already hundreds of blue colors. Scientists from Oregon State University have created a new shade of blue – by accident. The blue pigment made from yttrium, indium, and manganese is called “YInMn”, which is short for the elements it comprises.

blue pigment

Azure, cobalt, indigo or ultramarine blue: We know already hundreds of blue colors. Scientists from Oregon State University have created a new shade of blue – by accident. The blue pigment made from yttrium, indium, and manganese is called „YInMn“, which is short for the elements it comprises.

„YInMn“ blue – a real allrounder

In an experiment Mas Subramanian and his team have mixed black manganese oxide with other chemicals, heated them to a temperature of more than 1000 degrees Celsius and a blue compound emerged. That’s how they created „YInMn“, which is the first new inorganic blue pigment in two centuries. This was seven years ago. But before „YInMn“ has been commercially achievable, they put the pigment to the acid test – literally. And they found out that it didn’t even fade after a week in an acid bath.

Furthermore „YInMn“ features a unique crystal structure that only reflects blue wavelengths. This means that is highly stable. In addition to that „YInMn“ absorbs red and green wavelengths of light. As a result „YInMn“ has an infrared reflectivity of about 40 percent that enables it resist sunlight better than other blues. Consequently it can be used for cooling houses and increases energy efficiency.

Once in a blue moon a new pigment is found

Now the university made a license agreement with Shepherd Color Company so that it will be widely available soon. As „YInMn“ doesn’t contain toxic substances, they intend to use it in varnishes and plastics. Subramanian also had sent samples to artists who already presented the first artworks. But that’s not all. “Our pigment is useful for art restoration, because it is similar to ultramarine but more durable,” said Subramanian.

Even the Harvard Art Museum has included „YInMn“ in the Forbes Pigment Collection, which displays the world history of color. This great honor is extremely rare: The creation of new pigments happens only every other decades. Nevertheless the chemists are now trying to synthesize other new pigments by creating intentional laboratory accidents.

What do you think? How will the discovery of „YInMn“ affect the printing industry? Where could the new color be used to achieve better results in print?