How scientists discovered a brilliant new blue pigment

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Scientists at Oregon State University have described their discovery of a vivid new blue pigment that doesn't fade.

YInMn Blue, or “MasBlue” as it is known, was found while scientists were researching materials for electronics applications. The team was led by Mas Subramanian, a materials science professor at OSU.

The foundations of the discovery were laid in 2009 when graduate student Andrew Smith was exploring the electronic properties of manganese oxide by heating it to approximately 2,000 degrees. A brilliant blue compound emerged from the furnace, which Subramanian immediately recognized as a research breakthrough.”


“If I hadn’t come from an industry research background – DuPont has a division that developed pigments and obviously they are used in paint and many other things – I would not have known this was highly unusual, a discovery with strong commercial potential,” he said, in a statement.

The pigment is composed of the elements Yttrium, Indium, Manganese and Oxygen.

OSU notes that blue pigments have often been unstable, with many fading easily and containing toxic materials. However, the fact that YInMn Blue was synthesized at such high temperatures indicated to Subramanian that the compound was very stable.

The scientists received a patent for the new pigment in 2012 and pigment specialist Shepherd Color Co. began testing YInMn Blue. Citing its UV absorbance and stability in outdoor weathering, experts say that the pigment could reduce surface temperatures, energy consumption and cooling costs. OSU reports that Shepherd Color Co. has licensed the patent for commercialization.