Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Truer Hue, Out of the Blue

Elvis had his Blue Christmas. Picasso had his Blue Period. And thanks to a freak discovery in a laboratory, the world now has a brand new Blue Pigment. This is news about hues, and the close ties between science and art.

"Basically, this was an accidental discovery," said Mas Subramanian, a materials scientist at Oregon State University. “Our work had nothing to do with looking for a pigment.” The researchers were attempting to make chemical compounds with novel electronic properties.

Eureka-time came when a mix of manganese oxide, which is black, and other chemicals were heated to around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The superheated manganese was transformed into a crystal structure that reflected only blue light, while completely absorbing the red and green wavelengths.

“I was shocked, actually,” Dr. Subramanian said. "I realized immediately that something amazing had happened." The new planet-friendly pigment is a truer, bluer blue than anyone has ever known or seen.

People for millennia sought ways to paint things blue, often with limited success. The early Egyptians developed some of the first blue pigments, as did Mayan cultures, the Han dynasty in China, and others. It took until the 20th century to resolve the durability, safety and cost issues associated with blue pigments and blue paints.

Today's artists have several dependable and heavenly blues to choose: ultramarine, cobalt, magnesium, prussian, cerulean, indigo, phthalo, indanthrone and more.

The blue discovered in Oregon has proven safe and durable, and could eventually find uses in everything from inkjet printers to automobiles, textiles to house paint, as well as fine art paints, according to findings in published by the American Chemical Society.

At present, we can only guess when this new blue color it will become available at your friendly BINDERS art supply store. Nor can we say how it will perform when squeezed out of a paint tube.

What will be the name of this new blue? The discoverers have not yet decided what to call it. If you’d like to suggest a name, send it to us for posting. For now, BINDERS BLUE sounds like a pretty good name to us.

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