Market Brewing for New Shade of Blue
The first new shade of blue in more than 200 years—discovered via happenstance by a team of college scientists—soon will be introduced to the coatings market.
Shepherd Color Company (West Chester Township, Ohio) has reached a license agreement to market the first amount of YinMn Blue pigment by year’s end and is seeking business partners to explore its commercial applications.
According to Shepherd’s website, YInMn pigment—named as such because it’s based on an oxide made of yttrium, indium and manganese—can be used for artist color materials; building products with high solar reflectance for regulatory approval and reduced energy for cooling; or applications where this particular shade of blue can be useful (high heat and UV stability, IR properties and unique chemical structure and composition).
One of the more whimsical applications: YInMn Blue is being used in the newest Crayon.
In 2009 scientists at Oregon State University, led by Material Science Department Chair Mas Subramanian, were exploring the electronic properties of manganese when mixed with different chemicals.
When graduate student Andrew Smith heated black manganese oxide, yttrium and indium to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, a compound with a striking blue hue was pulled from the furnace.
“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,” Subramanian said.
Most blue pigments are unstable; they easily fade, and are made of toxic materials. But Subramanian realized a pigment synthesized at such a high temperature would be stable.
“(YInMn Blue) is more durable, safe and fairly easy to produce … it also appears to be a new candidate for energy efficiency,” Subramanian said.
Energy companies have echoed Subramanian’s sentiments, and have expressed interest in using YInMn Blue because of its pigment structure. Oregon State says its infrared reflectivity is about 40 percent, and when used in roofing materials could help keep a property cool and improve energy efficiency by reducing the need for air conditioning.
Mas Subramanian's team of scientists at Oregon State University discovered YInMn Blue by accident while testing the electronic properties of manganese when mixed with different chemicals.
As part of its “Cool Roofs” initiative, Shepherd Color Company tested YinMn Blue’s infrared reflective properties at its Laboratory for Advanced Innovative Research, near Denver.
Using two house models, researchers used a standard dark blue—made with high durability pigments—for one small, metal-paneled roof, and a coating of YInMn Blue on another. Both models were placed outside on a sunny, warm day.
Using an infrared imager to test each roof, it was revealed that the standard roof was much hotter than the YInMn Blue model. The imager’s temperature sensing function showed the standard blue roof was 191 degrees Fahrenheit; the YInMn Blue roof was 168 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hue Never Know
Subramanian admitted he isn’t done exploring all possible uses for YInMn Blue, delving deeper into its properties and seeking more answers. And, he wouldn’t be averse to stumbling upon another unseen color.
"(I’m) attempting to discover new pigments by creating intentional laboratory 'accidents,'" he said.