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Beyond orange and black: Accidental discovery unlocks whole spectrum of new pigments

These pigment colors have been created using "trigonal bipyramidal" compounds developed at Oregon State University. (Graphic courtesy of Oregon State University)

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Dr. Mas Subramanian and his team weren't looking to make an impact on the world of pigments.

"The project was aimed towards finding a material which can have applications in computers," Subramanian said.

But an accidental discovery of a new kind of blue by the Oregon State professor and his graduate students 7 years ago has attracted global attention - and led to a new way to develop new color pigments, Oregon State said Tuesday.

Finding on new shades of violet and purple were just published in Inorganic Chemistry, a journal of the American Chemical Society.

These new colors are non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, thermally stable and good at reflecting heat, Oregon State said in a press release.

"All of the compounds have been patented, and are being developed commercially by a private company. Yellow, green and orange colors have already been created, along with the original blue. The research has been supported by the National Science Foundation," the University said.

“No one knew then that these compounds existed,” said Subramanian, the Milton Harris Professor of Materials Science in the OSU College of Science. “Now we’ve been able to move beyond the accident and really understand the chemistry, including its structure and synthesis. We can produce different colors by using the same basic chemical structure but tweaking things a little, by replacing manganese atoms by iron, copper, zinc and/or titanium. And we’re slowly moving toward what we really want, what everyone keeps asking for, the Holy Grail of pigments - a bright, new, durable, nontoxic red.”

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