The vibrant YInMn blue pigment discovered at OSU by chemist Mas Subramanian has been approved for commercial sale by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Shepherd Color Co., which licensed the pigment from OSU, announced that the EPA has granted the company a “low volume exemption” that paves the way for the pigment, commercially known as Blue 10G513, to be used in industrial coatings and plastics.
YInMn refers to the elements yttrium, indium and manganese, which along with oxygen comprise the pigment. It features a unique chemical structure that allows the manganese ions to absorb red and green wavelengths of light while only reflecting blue.
YInMn blue was discovered by accident in 2009 when Subramanian and his team were experimenting with new materials that could be used in electronics applications.
The pigment has sparked worldwide interest, including from crayon maker Crayola, which used the color as the inspiration for its new Bluetiful crayon.
The pigment is so durable, and its compounds are so stable – even in oil and water – that the color does not fade. Those characteristics make the pigment versatile for a variety of commercial products; used in paints, for example, they can help keep buildings cool by reflecting the infrared part of sunlight.
The EPA approval announced this week does not include making the pigment available for artists’ color materials, but Shepherd is in the process of seeking approval for its use in all applications and is confident that will happen, company spokesman Mark Ryan said.
The researchers mixed manganese oxide – which is black in color – with other chemicals and heated them in a furnace to nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. One of their samples turned out to be a vivid blue. Oregon State graduate student Andrew Smith initially made these samples to study their electrical properties.
“This was a serendipitous discovery, a happy accident,” said Subramanian, the Milton Harris Chair of Materials Science at OSU. “But in fact, many breakthrough discoveries in science happen when one is not looking for it. As Louis Pasteur famously said, ‘In the fields of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.’
Read the complete article online.