‘YInMn Blue’: The first new blue pigment in 200 years was an accidental discovery, reveals ‘Mas’ Subramanian

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Published: June 4, 2018 2:00:23 PM

The search was on for nine years by Subramanian and his team and the result was the discovery of the first inorganic blue in 200 years.

‘YInMn Blue’ or ‘Mas blue’, an inorganic blue pigment that was accidentally discovered by Professor M A ‘Mas’ Subramanian in the year 2009, has today become a billion-dollar product! (Twitter)

‘YInMn Blue’ or ‘Mas blue’, an inorganic blue pigment that was accidentally discovered by Professor M A ‘Mas’ Subramanian in the year 2009, has today become a billion-dollar product! The search was on for nine years by Subramanian and his team and the result was the discovery of the first inorganic blue in 200 years. Subramanian, an alumnus of University of Madras and IIT-M, holds more than 50 other patents. He termed the discovery of YInMn blue as an accident.

Working on a material for computing, his team had ground yttrium (white), indium oxide (black) and manganese (yellow), and kept the mixture in a furnace. Therefore, YInMn Blue stands for yttrium, indium oxide and manganese. The team is yet to find yellow and red.

YInMn Blue is chemically stable, does not fade, and is non-toxic. Moreover, infrared radiation is strongly reflected, which makes this pigment suitable for energy-saving cool coatings. The pigment is far more durable than alternative blue pigments such as ultramarine or Prussian blue. It retains its vibrant colour in oil and water as well. It is additionally safer than cobalt blue.

The discovery by Mas Subramanian, came at a time when the pigment industry had nearly given up on discovering new blue inorganic pigments or even other colours, which is today a billion dollar product.

As per a report by Times of India, the professor had asked his then graduate students to make a series of compounds by combining oxides of three elements Yttrium, Indium and Manganese by heating the mixtures to high temperatures and study their magnetic properties.

When the samples were pulled out the next day, Subramanian noticed stunningly intense blue powders. He recognised the potential of the compounds to be useful as blue pigment as they were very stable and didn’t change colour when exposed to high temperature, water, mild acidic and alkali conditions.

Now diverting a bit of the focus of the research, the efforts are now being made on finding new colour pigments, especially red.

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