img(height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=2939831959404383&ev=PageView&noscript=1")

Blue is the new cool colour

Words:
Stephen Cousins

A new heat-reflective pigment is being marketed for outdoor uses such as roofing and cladding

Mas Subramanian, chemistry professor at Oregon State University.
Mas Subramanian, chemistry professor at Oregon State University.

The first blue pigment discovered in over 200 years is taking the art world by storm, and could soon transform the appearance and environmental performance of buildings.

YInMn Blue was discovered accidentally in 2009, by students at Oregon State University. They were trying to manufacture new materials for use in electronics. They extracted one particular mix of manganese oxide and other chemicals from the furnace to find it had turned a unique and vibrant blue.

The complex inorganic pigment, named after its chemical makeup of yttrium, indium and manganese oxides, has now been licensed, by paint and plastics manufacturer Shepherd Colors, for commercial use. It is already being experimented with by artists and conservators.

Shepherd plans to market it for use in outdoor applications such as roofing and cladding, having completed trials demonstrating its stability, durability and heat reflectivity.

Mas Subramanian, chemistry professor at Oregon State University, who discovered the new pigment with students, says: ‘In Florida, California, Australia and the Middle East, there is a lot of interest in finding ‘cool pigments’ that reflect heat, but existing blue pigments actually absorb heat. YInMn reflects infrared light at the high rate of about 40 percent, potentially helping keep buildings cooler and reduce cooling loads.’

The pigment could also be suitable for use in car paints, paint for ships – the reflective property makes vessels difficult to detect using infrared cameras – or even on weaponry to prevent overheating, he adds.

Its unique crystal structure boosts the pigment’s stability and durability, increasing resistance to fading, even with exposure to water and oil.

Picasso’s Blue Period may have been very different if he had access to YInMn, which has been described as ‘part neon-blue and two parts Cookie Monster’ by New York magazine.

Subramanian intends to run further experiments in the hope of discovering a red pigment with similar properties. But given the serendipity of the first revelation, he’s not getting his hopes up.

‘The blue was an accident; trying to find a red rationally might work, or it may lead to another discovery totally unrelated to pigments, which is how science often works,’ he says.


 

Latest

Anna Heringer loves mud, and has won some big prizes for her rammed earth designs. For her, architecture is not just a building but a route to human development

Earth is the German architect’s route to human development

Court backs Zaha's executors to hold ZHA principal Schumacher in check as he continues to voice views at odds with the industry. Meanwhile the profession demands greater emphasis on building in PM's 'green industrial revolution', and Grenfell Inquiry is told Celotex manipulated fire test results

Plus Grenfell shock claim, ‘Festival of Brexit’, and hit built environment emissions, industry tells PM

Made from a majority of natural fibres, Trespa's premium facade solution is designed for longevity, simplicity and aesthetic appeal - it performs technically too

Made from natural fibres, Trespa's facade solution is long lasting and attractive

Made from phyllite metamorphic rock, Riverstone has an attractive silky appearance and strength that makes it suitable for multiple architectural uses

An extremely rare metamorphic rock, Riverstone is prized for its strength and beauty for all uses

It’s panto time and Russian architect Vladimir Somov’s nutty but run-down 1987 Dostoevsky Drama Theatre in Veliky Novgorod is in line for a revamp. The competition for the job is being curated by Haworth Tompkins director Roger Watts. RIBAJ asks him what’s behind it

What is the Haworth Tompkins director doing with Vladimir Somov's run-down theatre?