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Development of new colors thanks to a new pigment

Chemists from Oregon State University discovered that the same crystal they identified two years ago that is used as the best blue pigment in the world could also be used to create other colors by adding other elements, and these colors could have considerable potential in the paint and pigment industries.

The crystal structure used to make the pigment in different colors. Graphic courtesy of the University of Oregon
The crystal structure used to make the pigment in different colors. Graphic courtesy of the University of Oregon

The first color on their list is obviously a pigment to produce a brilliant orange color - of course, since the uniform colors of the university's sports team are black and orange. However, the broader potential for these pigments, the researchers point out, is the ability to distort the very same chemical structure to obtain a variety of new colors in pigments whose production will be safer, more durable and more environmentally friendly than those that exist today.

            "The basic crystal structure we use for these pigments was already known, but no one thought of using it for any commercial purpose, including pigments," said Mas Subramanian, professor of materials science in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oregon.

            "All these colors should have the same properties of great stability and resistance to heat and acids," said the researcher. They are based on the same crystalline structure, so slight changes in the method will produce completely different colors and high quality pigments." The research findings were recently published in the scientific journal Inorganic chemistry.

            This invention resulted from what was essentially a serendipitous discovery in the researchers' labs in 2009, when the scientists were examining several manganese oxides for interesting electronic properties. At one stage of the process, when a sample was heated to a temperature of almost 1100 degrees Celsius, its color turned a sharp blue. It turned out that this chemistry has interesting properties that affect the absorption of light and ultimately the color of the compound. At this point the researchers shifted the focus of their research to what might develop into a revolution in the paint and pigment industry. Future applications may extend from inkjet printers to automobiles and even household paint.

            The research led, in the beginning, to a beautiful blue pigment with properties that have interested mankind for thousands of years, going back in time to the Han dynasty in China, ancient Egypt and the Mayan culture. Most of the previous pigments had various problems in the areas of their toxicity, stability and sensitivity to heat or acid. Some are carcinogenic, and others emit toxic substances.

            The initial blue color in the pigment originates from the manganese element that was in the compound. The scientists have now discovered that the same structure itself could lead to the formation of other colors simply by changing the elements.

            "The new orange pigment is based on an iron atom and we may use copper and titanium to get a green color," the researcher points out. "Also, the colors yellow and dark brown are possible for development, and we should be able to produce a new red pigment. Many red pigments today are made from cadmium and mercury, which are toxic metals. "These will be particularly interesting for commercial use," explains the lead researcher.

The news about the study

3 תגובות

  1. I, on the other hand, did not think of new colors such as red blue green, because there are not and cannot be new colors (in the field of human vision). I thought about the other meaning of colors - oil paints, water, crayon, colored pencils, etc. But the appropriate word to use in the article instead of color is dye or pigment - which is indeed used in the article, but in addition to the word color.

  2. "Development of new colors" - but these are not really new colors... these are new methods and starting materials to create the well-known colors. Too bad, I thought I'd see a surprising new color here...

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