Podcast: YInMn - A New Kind Of Blue

There's a spectrum of colour all around us, present in every part of our lives. From the clothes that we wear and the houses we live in, to our natural surroundings, there's a different shade around every corner. So, what happens when a new pigment is discovered? Indian scientist, Mas Subramanian added a new hue to our colour palettes in 2009, when he discovered a pigment composed of the chemical elements Yttrium, Indium and Manganese during a research session with his graduate students at Oregon State University. Blue pigments are rare in nature, so every time a new shade of blue is developed, it garners several reactions from the industry and artists.

One of the oldest blue pigments is Indigo, which is made from cultivating Indigofera tinctoria, a naturally occurring plant. The dye has been in use since the Indus Valley Civilization and was widely available in India, East Asia and Egypt before becoming popular worldwide. El Salvador is currently the largest producer of indigo. Read more about indigo cultivation and its uses here.

Another pigment of importance is Prussian blue, which was discovered accidentally by colour-maker Diesbach of Berlin, around 1704. Diesbach formed the blue pigment unintentionally when he was experimenting with the oxidation of iron. The colour has been extremely popular with artists ever since. Prussian blue was one of the first artificially produced pigments and is still used as the traditional blue in blueprints. From the start of the 18th century, Prussian blue was the predominant colour of the uniform coats worn by the infantry and artillery regiments of the Prussian Army.

Another important discovery in the art world is Cobalt blue, which is a colour much more vivid than its darker cousin, Prussian blue. Cobalt blue, discovered in 1802 by Louis Jaques Thénard, is regarded as one of the most stable blues and is favoured by artists due to its vivid tone and stability. Cobalt blue has been used in colouring ceramics and jewellery.

The latest addition to the world of pigments is this mix of Yttrium, Indium and Manganese called YInMn Blue. Professor Mas Subramanian says that the discovery of the colour was an accident when his team heated the oxides of Yttrium, Indium and Manganese to over 1000 °C . He claims that the colour is completely non-toxic and is highly stable. The colour has passed all the necessary regulatory tests and will be commercialised by Shepherd Colour Company. Subranamian's wife has been painting with the new blue as well. If you want to check out the pieces, they're available on her website, called Aquarelles De Mas Bleu.

In this episode of the podcast, we've spoken to Mas Subramanian to find out what's so unique about YInMn Blue, the potential uses of a pigment like this the colour and his future plans. We also spoke with people from the pigment industry to get an idea about how a new colour might change things.

Listen to the other episodes of The Intersection here.

Ganesh Chaturthi in India