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Scientists Accidentally Invent A Brilliant Blue That Will Never Fade

Professor Mas Subramanian and his student team from University of Oregon who were experimenting with manganese oxides while looking into their electronic properties accidentally discovered a new shade of blue. Besides its brilliant colour, this new pigment could also help make buildings more efficient.

The name of this very particular blue comes from the elements that it is composed of, namely manganese oxide.

At a temperature of around 1,200 degrees Celsius, manganese oxide, which is normally innocuous, turns into a vivid blue compound. This new pigment is formed by a unique crystal structure that permits the manganese ions to absorb green and red light wavelengths, while reflecting only blue.

The resulting blue is so stable as a compound as so durable that the colour does not fade over time. It is also resistant to heat and acid, is environmentally benign and inexpensive to produce from abundantly available minerals.

Initially discovered in 2009, the research team call this particular shade of blue YlnMn, after the chemical elements it is composed of. Most recently, they have made the pigment commercially available with some artists, such as Madelaine Corbin, already using it in their artworks.

But beyond its beautiful aesthetic, the pigment could help make buildings more efficient. This is because the pigment reflects a large amount of infrared light. As a result, a roof painted with YlnMn blue could help to keep buildings cool, thus conserving energy.

Furthermore, Professor Subramanian adds that this pigment could be useful for art restoration because it is similar to ultramarine but more durable.


  1. Jeffrey Warnock says:

    If interested in this product, how does one go about getting it?

  2. Allie says:

    We believe the pigment is patented and licensed to the Shepherd Color Company (link above). Thanks for your question!