New blue crayon seeks a name

YInMn blueCrayolaHand-out

YInMn blueCrayolaHand-out  

A U.S. firm is adding a fresh colour, discovered by an Indian-origin scientist, to its pack of 24 pieces

The first new shade of blue in over 200 years — an intense, vibrant shade discovered by an Indian-origin scientist and his team — will now be turned into a crayon.

The U.S. company that has made the crayon has invited the public to help name the new colour with a contest (on its website) that runs till June 2.

The pigment named ‘YInMn blue’ was discovered by accident in 2009 when researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) in the U.S. were experimenting with new materials that could be used in electronics applications.

“This was a serendipitous discovery, a happy accident. But in fact, many breakthrough discoveries in science happen when one is not looking for it,” said Mas Subramanian, professor at OSU, who led the team that made the discovery.

“Blue is associated with open spaces, freedom, intuition, imagination, expansiveness, inspiration and sensitivity,” said Mr. Subramanian. “Blue also represents meanings of depth, trust, loyalty, sincerity, wisdom, confidence, stability, faith, heaven and intelligence,” he said.

The shade is the first new blue pigment to be created since the French chemist Louis Jacques Thenard discovered cobalt blue in 1802.

“We strive to keep our colour palette innovative and on trend, which is why we’re excited to introduce a new blue crayon inspired by the YInMn pigment,” said Smith Holland, CEO and president of Crayola, the company that is introducing the new colour in its pack of 24 pieces.

Yellow retires

The new colour replaces the dandelion yellow that earlier featured in the pack.

While experimenting with new materials, OSU researchers had mixed manganese oxide — which is black — with other chemicals and heated them in a furnace to nearly 1,100 degrees Celsius. One of their samples turned out to be a vivid blue.

YInMn refers to the elements yttrium, indium and manganese, which along with oxygen comprise the vibrant pigment, researchers said. YInMn blue features a unique 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 colour does not fade. These characteristics, as well as its non-toxicity, make the new pigment versatile for a variety of commercial products. Used in paints, they can help keep buildings cool by reflecting infrared light.

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