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Updated: Nov 25, 2021


In 2017, a new shade of blue was introduced commercially into the public remarking it as the new blue since the invention of cobalt colour in 1802. This new chemically-made pigment is known as YInMn Blue and it symbolises trustworthiness, loyalty, and security. Its name comes after its components; Yttrium, Indium, and Manganese. This year, 2021, marks YInMn Blue to finally be available in the market for artistic use.

Citing from Artnet’s article titled “The First Blue Pigment Discovered in 200 Years Is Finally Commercially Available. Here’s Why It Already Has a Loyal Following” published in 2021, this inorganic pigment was coincidentally identified by the team of chemists from Oregon State University (OSU) led by Mas Subramanian in 2009. Subramanian and his team founded the pigment while they were experimenting with rare earth elements to developing materials for semiconductors used in electronics.

What is actually YInMn Blue?

Dating back from the ancient times, blues were considered as toxic, faded easily, and considered unstable. According to Subramanian’s statement released by OSU, “Ever since the early Egyptians developed some of the first blue pigments, the pigment industry has been struggling to address problems with safety, toxicity and durability.” YInMn Blue on the other hand creates an alternative solution. For example, before the synthesized version of various blue pigments such as ultramarine, prussian, navy, and cobalt were founded, ultramarine blue was considered expensive because it was made from grinded lapis lazuli and others were made from pernicious ingredients. YInMn Blue or 'mas blue', as the OSU preferred to call this newly blue colour, offers high UV absorbance, stability, high reflectivity in infrared, is non-toxic, and considered as a major breakthrough since the discovery of cobalt blue 200 years ago.

The advantages of YInMn Blue stated by Subramanian above, concludes that the colour serves as a good candidate for energy efficiency. With its high UV absorbance, this 'mas blue' can find its use in exterior applications. The colour reflects infrared, so it reduces the cooling costs to keep the building stay unheated because utilises the energy consumption. The non-toxic trait of the pigment also makes it safe to be massively produced compared to cobalt which was disputed for its harmful ingredient, carcinogenic.

Blue in Historical Records.

Owing to in “The Color Blue: History, Science, Facts”, humans began developing blue as a colorant 6,000 years ago in Afghanistan and then spread to Egypt where it was regarded as a highly valuable colour. The Egyptians merged the blue pigment into dyed fabrics and sell them to the royals of Persia, Rome, and Mesoamerica. Thousands of years later, blue began gaining its popularity again when the Catholic Church made an important move to colour-code the saints and Virgin Mary by associating them in blue-coloured robe.

Back then during the renaissance era, ultramarine blue, regardless of its high price, were often used by painters to paint the attires of Mary, Jesus, and other religious figures. Hence, the colour became a symbol of authority and prestige, even royals requested their attire to be in the same colour. A cheaper alternative to ultramarine blue was Azurite, but it would turn greenish and blackish in time. Ultramarine sat on the top tier for quite a long time until Indigo (a pigment colour that naturally made from Indigofera tinctoria plant) came into the European market through the international trades. It was followed by the first synthetic blue called Prussian blue in the 17th century.

Throughout time, synthetic colours are preferred by the artists of the 18-19th century because they were affordable in price and they help expanding the colour palettes. During this era, the synthetic version of the expensive ultramarine and natural-made Indigo were also created. The latest invented synthetic blue is cobalt blue which emerged in the era of impressionist painters like Van Gogh, Monet, and Renoir, and followed by our newly YInMn Blue 200 years later.

It is possible that in the future, more colours will emerge, now still hiding, waiting for their time to be discovered like the newly found mas blue. It is only a matter of time for scientists like Subramanian and his team to bring it to light.

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