When chemists at Oregon State University discovered a new blue pigment in 2009, they probably couldn’t have predicted just how useful this new shade would be. Lead scientist Mas Subramanian and his team accidentally created the hue when testing new materials to be used in electronics. When they mixed manganese oxide with other chemicals and heated the concoction to nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, an exceptionally vibrant bluepigment was produced. “It was serendipity, actually—a happy, accidental discovery,” Subramanian said in a statement.
Finally reaching the marketplace this year, their hue, named YInMn for the combination of its elements (yttrium, indium, and manganese), will first be used in a range of coatings and plastics. The unique color is extraordinarily stable—it will not fade over time, even if it’s exposed to water—and it’s nontoxic, which makes it the perfect pigment for commercial products. An additional use for the color? Roofing. YInMn has an extremely high infrared reflectivity for a blue hue (about 40 percent), and when used for roofing, it provides an eco-friendly method of cooling a building.
“The more we discover about the pigment, the more interesting it gets,” Subramanian said. “We already knew it had the advantage of being more durable, safe, and fairly easy to produce. Now it also appears to be a new candidate for energy efficiency.”