In 1802, chemists discovered that you could commercially manufacture a great blue pigment using cobalt. For the last 200 years, that was basically it.
Then in 2009, researchers at Oregon State University finally stumbled across a new form of blue, more vivid yet than the cobalt stuff.
It's finally going on sale now — at $179.40 for a three-ounce tube, yeeikes!
Isis Davis-Marks at Smithsonian has the story:
Named after its chemical components of yttrium, indium and manganese oxides, YInMn absorbs red and green wavelengths while reflecting blue wavelengths to produce a bright blue color. The unique hue, which is a hybrid of ultramarine and cobalt blue, fills "a gap in the range of colors," art supply manufacturer Georg Kremer tells Artnet News.
He adds, "The pureness of YInMn Blue is really perfect."
People around the world have gravitated toward blue, which was the first man-made pigment, for millennia. Given the difficulty of extracting blue from natural sources, artists throughout history have had to create synthetic blue pigments. Prior to YInMn Blue, the last commercially manufactured, inorganic blue pigment was cobalt, which was discovered in 1802 and first produced in France in 1807, according to My Modern Met's Emma Taggart. Cobalt is poisonous if consumed in large quantities; it doesn't reflect heat well and tends to fade over time.
"[YInMn Blue is] really an exceptional blue, because it reflects heat more than cobalt blue, it's really stable and it's a really great color like lapis lazuli," Subramanian told NPR.