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Subramanian and Matisse in paint store

YInMn Blue now available to artists

By Srila Nayak

Mas Subramanian (right) with Derivan CEO Steven Patterson

2017 has been a really good year for the lustrous YInMn blue pigment, discovered by Oregon State University chemist Mas Subramanian eight years ago. As the first inorganic blue pigment in 200 years it has captured the interest of the world. Crayola launched a new crayon inspired by YInMn Blue this summer. After a fevered naming contest that saw 90,000 submissions from fans around the world, the new crayon has a name: Bluetiful.

Now Australian paint supply company Derivan is taking YInMn Blue to Australian consumers in a new way, ensuring that the beauty and artistic merits of the new color pigment will be discovered and enjoyed by large numbers of artists and art lovers. Derivan has developed Subramanian's pigment into a new hue of blue acrylic paint, as part of its famous line of Matisse professional artists acrylic paints, which are on sale in Australia.

Fittingly, Derivan is calling its new blue acrylic "Oregon Blue."

YInMn paint tubes

"Yin Min Blue would have just as a vivid look in appearance (or more) providing an alternative to Ultramarine Blue with the added benefits of refracting infrared wavelengths, making it highly lightfast (in archival terms) and, with no toxic compounds, making it a very safe pigment to use, in paint form or dry," writes Derivan on its website.

Due to its intense brilliance, YInMn blue is highly attractive to artists.

"It is more vivid than most other blues available to artists except perhaps the blue made from the rare lapis lazuli gemstone," said Subramanian.

Oregon Blue has resulted in some striking art works. Australian David Brinsden used the blue paint to adorn his handmade guitar with stunning results.

YInMn blue guitar

Derivan is the first paint company in the world to make YInMn Blue commercially available to artists. While Subramanian responds to numerous requests for the blue pigment from artists in Oregon and beyond, it is currently not commercially available for artists' color materials in the USA.

YInMn Blue notched up yet another significant achievement very recently when Shepherd Color Co., which licensed the blue pigment from OSU, announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the pigment for commercial sale and for use in industrial coatings and plastics. Shepherd is in the process of seeking EPA approval for the pigment to be used in artists paints and other materials and is confident that will happen, according to company spokesman Mark Ryan.

Subramanian recently visited Derivan's office and paint manufacturing plant in Sydney to explore collaborations with the company. In the years since the discovery of YInMn Blue, Subramanian has created other inorganic color pigments that Derivan may test for suitability as artists paints.

The presence of the expensive metal Indium in YInMn makes it more expensive than other paints. The challenge, Subramanian explains, is to create yet another vibrant new blue pigment that is not only easy to manufacture and non-toxic (like YInMn) but also cheaper.

Recently Subramanian and his team were awarded a patent for a blue pigment produced from calcium, aluminum and nickel. “This is a much cheaper blue pigment but it is also a less vivid blue,” he said. “YInMn is like the Ferrari of blues and the quest is to create a new color pigment that may be more like a BMW, which is also pretty good,” added Subramanian.

Subramanian continues to be surprised by YInMn Blue’s growing influence and footprint in the world.

“What fascinates me is how far it has gone from its modest beginnings. This rarely happens to something made in a science lab.” He is especially pleased by its debut in the market for artists. “Artists and scientists are similar. We get excited by new things.”