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Discovery of “near perfect” blue pigment with heat-reflecting properties

Scientists from Oregon State University accidentally discovered a blue pigment with unique heat-reflecting properties, which will soon be used commercially. Dubbed “YInMn Blue” (based on its physical components: Yrttrium, Indium and Manganese), the pigment could be effective in keeping cars and buildings cool, according to the scientists.

The discovery came about in 2009, when chemist Mas Subramanian and his team were trialling new materials that could be used in electronics applications. They mixed manganese oxide (which is black) with a range of other chemicals and heated them to around 1000°C. This resulted in the creation of a new pigment formed by a unique crystal structure that allows the manganese ions to absorb red and green wavelengths of light, while only reflecting blue.

These characteristics make the pigment versatile for a range of commercial products. If used in paints for example, it could help keep buildings cool by reflecting infrared light. Furthermore, the colour will not fade and the pigment is non-toxic; two features that have historically proven difficult to find in a blue pigment.

Oregon State University has recently entered into partnership with The Shepherd Color Company and will be using the pigment in a range of coatings and plastics. It may also be used in roofing materials in the future, according to the university.

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