Lead scientist Mas Subramanian made the discovery in 2009 when he and fellow researchers mixed manganese oxide and other chemicals and heated the compound to nearly 1,100 degrees Celsius. What he produced was a pigment capable of reflecting 40 percent of infrared light, so it can help to keep buildings cooler and thereby lower energy costs. The new shade is called YlnMn -- named for its constituent parts of yttrium, indium and manganese -- and called a near perfect blue pigment by Oregon State University.
The material has a unique crystalline structure allowing the manganese ions to absorb red and green wavelengths of light and reflect only blue. The compound is stable, so it won't fade, and unlike cobalt and Prussian blue, it's non-toxic. It's also fairly easy to produce. Oregon State University, which first announced the discovery last year, says it has reached a licensing agreement with The Shepherd Color Company for use of the pigment in a wide range of coatings and plastics.