Brace yourselves, artists! There is a new shade of blue only just discovered – YlnMn blue.
Sometimes the best things happen accidentally. This is how scientists at Oregon State University came across a new shade of blue. The scientists were experimenting with new materials to be used in electronics when they came across a pigment of a unique crystal structure which absorbed red and green wavelengths while reflecting blue. It was a result of a black manganese oxide, a few other chemicals, and a whopping 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Blue is that alluring colour that you just can’t avoid if you are painting water, sky, anything outdoorsy. And this colour has a very expensive history. The first blue pigment was azurite, followed by Egyptian blue (manufactured by Egyptians!). The recipe for Egyptian blue was lost during the Middle Ages, and artists began to use ultramarine pigment from Afghanistan. This was an incredibly expensive pigment and was generally reserved by artists for painting the robes of Virgin Mary, and was seen as a symbol of purity. (See below for Murillo’s Immaculate Conception, or Madonna Litta attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci.)
Blue traditionally stood for all heavenly gods, representing the spiritual and the divine. And remember, brides with their “something blue”, and those famous blue sapphires in the rings of English royalty? Blue was also known as a symbol of fidelity. The first blue pigment produced by modern chemistry was Prussian blue, followed by cerulean and cobalt blues. These colours now constitute the standard blues available to contemporary artists.
The great thing about YlnMn blue is that it is chemically very stable and is not likely to fade over time. (Good news indeed for future masterpieces!) The colour was first discovered accidentally back in 2009 and has now been perfected to be sold as commercial paint, plastics and coating.
Does it get better? Yes it does: the colour is non-toxic! Many bright coloured pigments, such as cadmiums, contain toxic ingredients. The YlnMn blue has the potential to become an environmentally friendly alternative to blues currently in use commercially. More great news? It is likely to be available to artists by the end of the year.
The colour has been named after the chemical elements used in its production, and has been christened ‘YlnMn blue’. Given that its properties are so fabulously attractive, I think I could get used pronouncing it. Feeling ‘blue’ has just got a whole lot better!