An accidental discovery in 2009 in the Oregon State University lab has yielded the newest blue – a hue that, despite being the first man-made pigment (Egyptian blue), has not seen any additions in over 200 years (the last was Cobalt blue). Given the temporary name YInMn, the cerulean-like pigment will soon be available for public consumption in the form of a new Crayola colour, and likely later on in the form of additional materials such as paint due to its compound resistance to water and oil.
Inadvertently created by Andrew Smith and Mas Subramanian as they were testing new materials for use in electronic devices, the colour is constituted by a specific mixture of manganese oxide, yttrium and indium. “What is amazing is that through much of human history, civilisations around the world have sought inorganic compounds that could be used to paint things blue but often had limited success,” Subramanian said in a statement. The process of heating the concoction to 1093°C revealed the vivid blue, which Subramanian remarks is pure luck. “Most pigments are discovered by chance,” remarked Subramanian. “The reason is because the origin of the colour of a material depends not only on the chemical composition, but also on the intricate arrangement of atoms in the crystal structure. So someone has to make the material first, then study its crystal structure thoroughly to explain the colour.”
By 2015, YInMn was licensed with the Shepherd Color Company. Later that year, Crayola joined the partnership and announced the production of the new blue in spring 2017 at a panel on YNInMn that delved into colour theory. Crayola, despite being a popular children’s art tool, has adapted its palette over the years in efforts to keep it fresh for its users, and on this occasion, it doesn’t hurt that polls have indicated that blue is a public favourite.
Crayola will release the new hue, and its new name following a North American competition, come September.