24th January 2019

INORGANIC BLUE USES NEW CHEMISTRY

A new pigment - YInMn blue – that was discovered by accident by Oregon State University chemists, will enter the marketplace later this year. Researchers say it has no toxic ingredients, and be used in a wide range of coatings and plastics. It is being marketed by The Shepherd Color Co.

In 2009, OSU chemist Mas Subramanian and his team were experimenting with new materials that could be used in electronics applications, and they mixed manganese oxide – naturally black in color – with other chemicals then heated them to nearly 2,000 deg F. One sample that came out was a vivid blue.

“It was serendipity, actually, a happy, accidental discovery,” says Subramanian, who is the Milton Harris Professor of Materials Science in the OSU College of Science.

The pigment is formed by a crystalline structure that means the manganese ions absorb red and green wavelengths of light, only reflecting blue. The vibrant blue is so durable, and its compounds are so stable, even in oil and water, that it will not fade. These characteristics make it usable in a variety of commercial products. In paints, it can help keep buildings cool by reflecting infrared light.

“This new blue pigment is a sign that there are new pigments to be discovered in the inorganic pigments family,” says Geoffrey T. Peake, research and development manager for The Shepherd Color Co. Commercial quantities of the pigment will be available later this year.

The lack of toxic materials is critical, Subramanian points out. “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,” he says. “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.”

Another commercial use of the product – in addition to coatings and plastics – may be in roofing materials. The new pigment is a cool blue compound that has infrared reflectivity of about 40 percent – much higher than other blue pigments – and could be used in the blue roofing movement.

“The more we discover about the pigment, the more interesting it gets,” adds Subramanian. “We already knew it had advantages of being more durable, safe and fairly easy to produce. Now it also appears to be a new candidate for energy efficiency.”

www.shepherdcolor.com