CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University will celebrate the blue pigment discovered at the university and its impact on art, culture and industry at an event called “The Colorful World of Pigments” scheduled for May 5 on OSU’s Corvallis campus.
Hosted by the College of Science, the event will include a discussion of color by a panel that will feature the pigment’s discoverer, Oregon State chemist Mas Subramanian; Christopher Manning of the Shepherd Color Company, OSU’s licensing partner for the pigment, named YInMn blue; a color theorist from Nike; and the curator of Harvard University’s 2,500-specimen Forbes Pigment Collection, a scientific catalog of color that includes YInMn blue.
The Colorful World of Pigments is part of a series known as SPARK: The Year of Arts and Science at OSU. The series explores the intersections of art and science.
Running from 8 a.m. to noon at LaSells Stewart Center, 875 S.W. 26th St., the pigments event also includes an exhibit featuring artworks using YInMn blue, and a wall on which children can color and paint from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
The panel discussion will go from 9 to 10:30 a.m.
At 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., Subramanian will lead tours of the lab where YInMn blue was discovered, and demonstrate how it was discovered. Space on the tours is limited.
YInMn blue was discovered by accident in 2009 when Subramanian and his team were experimenting with new materials that could be used in electronics applications. The researchers mixed manganese oxide – which is black in color – with other chemicals and heated them in a furnace to nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. One of their samples turned out to be a vivid blue. Oregon State graduate student Andrew Smith initially made these samples to study their electrical properties.
The pigment features a unique crystal structure that allows the manganese ions to absorb red and green wavelengths of light while only reflecting blue. The vibrant blue is so durable, and its compounds are so stable – even in oil and water – that the color does not fade.
These characteristics make the new pigment versatile for a variety of commercial products. Used in paints, for example, they can help keep buildings cool by reflecting infrared light. Better yet, Subramanian said, the pigment’s ingredients are non-toxic.