YInMn: Introducing a brand new blue

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The concept of color seems supremely basic. Little kids learn colors almost as soon as they can talk, and everyone knows ROYGBIV. The rainbow, however, just scratches the surface. Because color is a spectrum created by varying wavelengths of light, there are actually an infinite number of colors in the universe. The fact that these colors exist, however, does not actually mean they exist. I know, that sounds impossible, but bear with me. While there are millions of different colors in the color spectrum, not all of them have concrete forms. In fact, we have a relatively limited number of colors than can be physically manipulated, so it is pretty exciting when people discover new ones. Technically this means the discovery is not a new color, but a new pigment. Color is simply a wavelength of light, while pigments are specific chemical combinations that reflect and absorb that light (and have a series of other properties like toxicity or heat reflection as well). Back in 2009, Chemistry Professor Mas Subramanian of Oregon State University discovered an entirely new pigment when he created YInMn blue.

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Subramanian was not even trying to create a new color when he stumbled upon YInMn blue. Like many great scientific discoveries, his was accidental. He was working with his team to create new materials for electronic applications and just happened to notice the startling blue color that resulted from one particular chemical combination. YInMn blue, (named for its chemical composition) is made by heating black manganese oxide and other chemicals in a furnace to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The elements from which it takes its name are Yttrium, Indium and Manganese. Part of the reason YInMn blue is so exciting is because “true” blue does not occur often in nature. The few natural blues that do exist, like indigo, are not very durable. YInMn, on the other hand, is highly resistant to wear and retains its vibrancy over time. It is nontoxic, and even reflects infrared light.

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The color itself is so vibrant because of how it absorbs and reflects light. YInMN blue reflects blue, and only blue, very strongly. It also absorbs some blue and green, which makes it extraordinarily bright. While this pigment was discovered 7 years ago, it only became available to the public this year when OSU licensed it to the Shepherd Color Company. This means that you could soon be seeing YInMN blue all around you, and the most exciting part is that it may not be alone. YInMn blue has opened the possibility of discovering other inorganic pigments, which means we could soon be living in a more colorful world!

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-Tessa

YInMn: Introducing a brand new blue

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