Chemists Create a New, Perfect Hue of Blue

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In 2009, chemists lead by Mas Subramanian at Oregon State University accidentally discovered how to create the most impeccable blue pigment. This completely non-toxic compound recently became available for use commercially where it will be found in paints and plastics and possibly even cool roofing materials.

The OSU team’s original focus was experimenting with resources for use in electronics, but after heating one of the samples, graduate student Andrew Smith made to 2,000 degrees, they noticed an uncanny beauty.

What in particular makes this cobalt so perfect? According to Oregon State’s press release, “The new pigment is formed by a unique crystal structure that allows the manganese ions to absorb red and green wavelengths of light, while only reflecting blue. The vibrant blue is so durable, and its compounds are so stable – even in oil and water – that the color does not fade.”

The new blue’s non-toxicity is particularly groundbreaking. As 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.” Essentially, it has taken humans thousands of years to build a flawless blue pigment!

Now, Subramanian will continue on experimenting while intentionally attempting to discover new pigments.