First new shade of blue in 200 years turned into crayon

The pigment named 'YInMn blue' was discovered by accident in 2009 when researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) in the US were experimenting with new materials that could be used in electronics applications.

PTI| Updated: May 14, 2017, 14:02 PM IST

Los Angeles: The first new shade of blue in over 200 years - an intense, vibrant shade discovered by an Indian-origin scientist and his team - will now be turned into a crayon.

The pigment named 'YInMn blue' was discovered by accident in 2009 when researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) in the US were experimenting with new materials that could be used in electronics applications.

"This was a serendipitous discovery, a happy accident. But in fact, many breakthrough discoveries in science happen when one is not looking for it," said Mas Subramanian, professor at OSU, who led the team that made the discovery.

"Blue is associated with open spaces, freedom, intuition, imagination, expansiveness, inspiration and sensitivity," said Subramanian.

"Blue also represents meanings of depth, trust, loyalty, sincerity, wisdom, confidence, stability, faith, heaven and intelligence," he said.

The shade is the first new blue pigment to be created since the French chemist Louis Jacques Thenard discovered cobalt blue in 1802.

"We strive to keep our colour palette innovative and on trend, which is why we're excited to introduce a new blue crayon colour inspired by the YInMn pigment," said Smith Holland, CEO and president of Crayola, the company that is introducing the new colour.

Subramanian, noting that people love the colour blue for a wide variety of reasons, called it "truly an honour" that his discovery has led to a new crayon colour.

The company has invited the public to help name the new blue with a contest that runs through June 2.

While experimenting with new materials researchers had mixed manganese oxide ? which is black in colour ? with other chemicals and heated them in a furnace to nearly 1,100 degrees Celsius. One of their samples turned out to be a vivid blue.

YInMn refers to the elements yttrium, indium and manganese, which along with oxygen comprise the vibrant pigment, researchers said.

YInMn blue features a unique structure that allows the manganese ions to absorb red and green wavelengths of light while only reflecting blue, researchers said.

The vibrant blue is so durable, and its compounds are so stable ? even in oil and water ? that the colour does not fade.

These characteristics, as well as its non-toxicity, make the new pigment versatile for a variety of commercial products. Used in paints, for example, they can help keep buildings cool by reflecting infrared light.