by Deb Shaw
A New Blue
Blue pigment discovered at Professor Subramanian’s lab at Oregon Stste University. Photo from Oregon State University.
Professor Mas Subramanian is a professor of materials science at Oregon State University, researching new materials that could be used in electronics. In 2009, one of his grad students, Andrew E. Smith took a mixture out of the furnace that had been heated to more than 2,000 Fahrenheit and found it had turned a brilliant, clear blue color. They had accidentally, serendipitously discovered a new blue pigment; the first new blue in more than 200 years. The last “new inorganic blue” to be manufactured was Cobalt Blue in the early 1800’s. Cobalt, however, was not lightfast and was toxic to boot.
Considered a “complex inorganic pigment,” the new blue is currently called YInMn blue, named for its chemical makeup of yttrium, indium and manganese oxides.
Subramanian, Smith and Oregon State University chemistry professor Arthur Sleight patented the YInMn material; Shepherd Color, an industrial pigment distributor is testing out the pigment’s application. Once the Environmental Protection Agency approves the color for commercial manufacturing, Shepherd is licensed to sell the pigment. So far, YInMn has proven to reflect heat more than Cobalt Blue and has proven to be remarkably stable; holding up against oil, water and sunlight better than other available blues. In addition to being light safe, none of the ingredients are toxic.
Once large manufacturers are using a pigment, the material trickles down to our art supplies. Keep your eyes open in the next few years for a brand new blue, which will most likely receive a sexier name for marketing purposes. And the team of “new blue” researchers are already working to create new colors by altering the mixture. They have created a purple by adding titanium and zinc and are expecting additional bright, vivid colors to follow.
Late Summer “Reads”: Links to Books and Online Articles and Podcasts about Color
Now that we’re hitting the dog days of summer, here are some interesting books, links and podcasts about color:
NPR has a series of free podcasts about color, called Color Decoded: Stories that Span the Spectrum. Read the articles, or listen or download them all from the link, or individually from any of the links below. Many of the following (in reverse order) are only a few minutes long, so queue them all up. Some of them have been featured on our BAGSC News blog previously. They’re fun listening while painting or drawing:
The Color Of Politics: How Did Red And Blue States Come To Be?
Each of the individual articles have links to other resources and stories about color: TED Talks, podcasts and news articles. It’s easy to journey deep into online color discoveries.
For those who prefer spending the end of summer curled up with a good book, here are a very few great reads about colors:
A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire, Amy Butler Greenfield, ISBN-10: 0060522763
A Red Like No Other: How Cochineal Colored the World, Carmella Padilla and Barbara Anderson, ISBN-10: 0847846431
Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World, Simon Garfield, ISBN-10: 0393323137
Color: A Natural History of the Palette, Victoria Finlay, ISBN-10: 0812971426
The Brilliant History of Color in Art, Victoria Finlay, ISBN-10: 1606064290
Rarest Blue: The Remarkable Story of an Ancient Color Lost to History and Rediscovered, Baruch Sterman, ISBN-10: 0762782226
Have a favorite book about the history of a color? Let us know in the “Comments” section.