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You Can Finally Buy the World's Newest Blue

Pigment YInMn Blue, discovered in 2009, makes it to the commercial market
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 19, 2021 5:47 PM CST
You Can Finally Buy the World's Newest Blue
The making of the new blue.   (YouTube)

(Newser) – The world's first new blue pigment in 200 years is at last on the market, more than a decade after it was accidently discovered in a lab. Just don't expect to slather YlnMn Blue on your house. As the Smithsonian reports, it's available only at a select few places in the US, and a 1.3-ounce tube will set you back $179.40 at the Italian Art Store in Maine. So what's the fuss? Artnet News uses the words "brilliant" and "stunning" to describe the pigment. "It is very vivid compared to cobalt blue or Prussian blue, and it comes with some additional advantages in terms of the durability and stability," chemist Mas Subramanian of Oregon State University tells the outlet. It was his team that stumbled across the pigment in 2009 while experimenting with rare earth minerals for electronics. "The pureness of YlnMn Blue is really perfect," he says.

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A long regulatory process ensued after the discovery, and the EPA has now approved the sale of the pigment for consumer use. The weird name comes from the elements used to create it: yttrium, indium, and manganese. A post at Chemical and Engineering News explains that YInMn "is a bright, opaque blue to the eye but reflects infrared light, meaning it stays cooler in the sun than other pigments of a similar color." The Smithsonian adds that the bright color results from the absorption of red and green wavelengths, combined with the reflection of blue wavelengths. The end product "is a hybrid of ultramarine and cobalt blue," it says. This may not be the last contribution from the Oregon State researchers: Subramanian tells Artnet News he is now working on a new pigment of red. (Crayola has put out a new crayon inspired by the creation, dubbed "Bluetiful.")

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