Chemists Stumble on First New Blue in 200 Years

Pigment also makes possible a new spectrum of colors that could be mixed using it
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2016 6:35 PM CDT
Whoops: Chemists Stumble on 1st New Blue in 200 Years
Introducing YInMn Blue.   (Oregon State University)

Back in 2009, a materials science professor and his students were, in a sense, playing with fire in a lab at Oregon State University—well, mixing chemicals and heating them to temperatures above 2,000 degrees anyway—when they accidentally created a new blue. The happy accident occurred during an attempt to create new materials for use in electronics when a grad student extracted a mix from the furnace and saw a brilliant blue. "You know what Louis Pasteur said?" the professor, Mas Subramanian, recently asked NPR. "Luck favors the alert mind." The group was lucky indeed, because the blue is the first to be discovered in two centuries. The team named the blue YInMn for the elements it comprises—yttrium, indium and manganese—and it has just become commercially available as paint via the Ohio-based Shepherd Color Company, reports Quartz.

Scientists also are working on an energy-saving roofing material with YInMn because the compound can resist water and sunlight better than other blues, including the last one created, cobalt blue. Expect to see it in plastics, too. Subramanian and his team also are developing other colors using YInMn, which is, as New York describes it, "part neon-blue and two parts Cookie Monster." Meanwhile, Artnet reports that YInMn has been entered in a Harvard Art Museum pigment collection that preserves the "world history of color," while artists are calling the color "Mas Blue"—mas means "more" in Spanish and happens to be Subramanian's name. "The more we discover about the pigment, the more interesting it gets," he says. (See how the world's ugliest color is being used to save lives.)

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