Sometimes, it’s the accidental discoveries that can be the most beautiful.
Chemists who were investigating the electronic properties of several chemicals, including manganese oxide, stumbled across what has been described as a near perfect shade of blue through sheer accident.
Isn’t science great?
When it was first discovered, albeit inadvertently, it was immediately heralded as “the creation of a near-perfect blue pigment,” and now, this azure “eureka!” moment is officially being manufactured for paint, surely exciting artists everywhere.
The perfect blue color first appeared on the scene at Oregon State University, when chemists heated manganese oxide, along with other chemicals, to over 1,200°C (2,000°F). But in addition to exploring the manganese oxide’s electronic properties, the heating process resulted in the birth of the new, vibrant blue color, which they named “YInMn blue.”
The name YInMn blue is a combination of the names of the elements that make it up — yttrium, indium, and manganese.
The findings of the original study were published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
“Basically, this was an accidental discovery,” said Mas Subramanian, who is a Milton Harris professor of materials science in the OSU Department of Chemistry, in a statement. “Our work had nothing to do with looking for a pigment.”
Of course, in science, one doesn’t label an accidental discovery as an accident. It’s called, instead, “serendipitous.”
Subramanian knew that they had stumbled upon something special when he saw the vibrant blue color.
“Then one day a graduate student who is working on the project was taking samples out of a very hot furnace while I was walking by, and it was blue, a very beautiful blue. I realized immediately that something amazing had happened.”
So, what’s so special about this blue? It goes beyond its vibrant hue that manages to be both deep and bright.
One aspect that makes this color special is that the pigment in it is far more stable when exposed to extreme temperatures or acidic conditions. And, unlike traditional blue pigments, such as Prussian blue or cobalt blue, YInmn blue doesn’t release any cyanide, nor is it carcinogenic. Also, the new blue hue has highly reflective properties, which means it could be used in paints designed to help keep buildings cooler by reflecting infrared light.
Another potentially exciting aspect of the new color is that it may potentially revolutionize roofing because of that infrared reflective quality, which, OSU reports, is about 40 percent. Using it on roofs would also help keep buildings cooler.
Plus, it’s just a really beautiful color.
YInMn is different than other colors being sold because it is inherently free of toxic ingredients like lead, which has always been a problem with commercially sold paints in the past.
“The basic crystal structure we’re using for these pigments was known before, but no one had ever considered using it for any commercial purpose, including pigments,” Subramanian said. “Ever since the early Egyptians developed some of the first blue pigments, the pigment industry has been struggling to address problems with safety, toxicity and durability.”
Subramanian told Artnet in a recent interview that the pigment has become a popular choice among artists “because of its vivid color and resistant properties.” The paint manufacturers Shepherd Color Company have also licensed a patent and is now selling samples of YInMn blue.
Subramanian is still exploring the color’s makeup in order to discover other new properties that may be useful in addition to “attempting to discover new pigments by creating intentional laboratory ‘accidents.'”
Of course, when a scientist is intentionally trying to create an accident in the laboratory, it doesn’t seem quite so accidental.
Science also recently declared the official ugliest color in the world. For more on that, click here.
[Image via Shutterstock]