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Metal gives pigment the blues

Researchers studying manganese oxides unexpectedly discover a new way to achieve blue hue

Some scientists really blew it. They accidentally created a new blue pigment by doping white and black compounds with manganese. The new blue may end up in a variety of paints and inks, perhaps replacing some old standby pigments that can be toxic or unstable.

Scientists led by Mas Subramanian of Oregon State University in Corvallis were studying manganese oxides because of the compounds’ interesting magnetic and electronic properties. When a tray of samples came out of the furnace where they had been baking at about 1,200 degrees Celsius, the powders emerged a startling blue.

“I’ve never seen a manganese oxide give rise to such beautiful colors,” says Subramanian. “When I saw the compound come out it was so beautifully blue.”

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