Meet YInMn, the First New Blue Pigment in Two Centuries

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From Hyperallergic:

Cerulean, azure, navy, royal … Much has been written about the color blue, the first human-made pigment. “Because blue contracts, retreats, it is the color of transcendence, leading us away in pursuit of the infinite,” wrote William Gass in his book On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry. Wassily Kandinsky once mused: “The power of profound meaning is found in blue, and first in its physical movements of retreat from the spectator, of turning in upon its own center […] Blue is the typical heavenly color.”

And now, for the first time in two centuries, a new chemically-made pigment of the celebrated color is available for artists — YInMn Blue. It’s named after its components — Yttrium, Indium, and Manganese — and its luminous, vivid pigment never fades, even if mixed with oil and water.

Like all good discoveries, the new inorganic pigment was identified by coincidence. A team of chemists at Oregon State University (OSU), led by Mas Subramanian, was experimenting with rare earth elements while developing materials for use in electronics in 2009 when the pigment was accidentally created.

Andrew Smith, a graduate student at the time, mixed Yttrium, Indium, Manganese, and Oxygen at about 2000 °F. What emerged from the furnace was a never-before-seen brilliant blue compound. Subramanian understood immediately that his team stumbled on a major discovery.

“People have been looking for a good, durable blue color for a couple of centuries,” the researcher told NPR in 2016.

. . . .

OSU patented the color in 2012, but it took five more years until the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved YInMn, at first only for use in industrial coatings and plastics. Last May, the government agency officially approved the new pigment for commercial use, making it available to all.

The vibrant pigment caught attention long before the EPA’s official approval last year. In 2016, Shepherd Color Company acquired the license to sell the pigment commercially for exterior applications. A year later, YInMn Blue inspired a new shade of Crayola crayon called Bluetiful. The pigment has also been popular on Etsy, although the quality and authenticity of these offerings are not guaranteed.

Link to the rest at Hyperallergic

A couple of clarifications concerning the OP:

  1. As a general proposition, you can’t “patent” a color.
  2. The YInMn Blue patent as described in the OP is what is generically called a “Chemical Patent.”
  3. A Chemical Patent protects the use of specific chemicals, molecules, compounds, etc., in experimentation and product development.
  4. The YInMn Blue patent, as issued, protects a complex chemical formula, with variations.
  5. The patent also protects any paint, ink, glass, plastic, or decorative cosmetic preparation composed with the a material created with that chemical formula.

PG will happily accept clarifications by visitors more knowledgeable than he concerning patent law, chemistry or a great many other topics (a low hurdle), but it seems to him that, when it comes to protecting a color during a digital age, chemistry may not provide a comprehensive solution.

What humans perceive as color in the physical world is light that is reflected off of a colored object. One can affect the color perceived by humans by changing the color temperature of the light being directed to the object.

Sunlight has a different color temperature than moon light which has a different color temperature than fluorescent light, for example. While the human brain can make adjustments to modify perceptions to make them seem different than the eye can see, an object will be a measurably different color when observed under direct sunlight at noon than it will under the light of a full moon at midnight. Similarly an object will reflect a different color when observed under sunlight near sunset than under sunlight at noon.

Since we look at screens quite a lot these days, a computer screen is capable of producing the appearance of YInMn Blue without the use of the chemical formula which is protected by the OSU patent.

In fact, the following image of YInMn Blue was presented to PG’s eyes on his computer screen via the OP and is delivered to those who see this post without PG (or PG’s computer) using the protected chemical formula.

{In case you were wondering, Mrs. PG has observed manifestations of OCD (which PG attributes to a lengthy Covid lockdown) in recent weeks. Perhaps visitors to TPV have just observed a similar manifestation themselves.}

YInMn Blue

And here’s Bluetiful!, a new YInMn-ish Crayola color. Although you might not have thought so, colors can have genders. Bluetiful! is female. She is interested in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) education.

5 thoughts on “Meet YInMn, the First New Blue Pigment in Two Centuries”

  1. A Note: Though PG may offer us a reproduction of a photograph of some of the YInMn powder, the actual colors that I see are only what my LCD screen can reproduce.

    • You’re absolutely correct, p.

      Additionally, photographs only portray what they are photographing to the extent they are electronically or chemically able to do so.

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