A New Blue that Saves Green

BY ERIK J. MARTIN ON SEPTEMBER 16TH, 2016

Here’s a bolt out of the blue that should get homeowners excited: a new shade of blue exterior paint and roof coating that’s designed to save energy and withstand the elements may soon be on store shelves – thanks to the discovery of a non-toxic inorganic pigment.

A team of scientists at Oregon State University led by professor Mas Subramanian made the discovery in 2009 while searching for new electronics materials. After certain chemicals were mixed with black manganese oxide and heated up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, they produced a vibrant tone of blue. The group christened the pigment YlnMn blue, named after Yttrium, Indium and Manganese, three of its key ingredients.

“What makes our blue pigment special is that, in addition to its brilliant blue color, it can reflect heat, so it can be used for energy-saving coatings for roofs and cars to make them cooler like white pigments,” Subramanian says. “It also absorbs ultraviolet light and will not degrade. Normally, UV light can degrade the organic medium mixed with pigment when the paint is made.”

One paint company has already licensed the scientists’ patent to make paint and a roof-coating product with YlnMn blue included, but is waiting for approval from regulatory agencies like the EPA before they can be commercially produced. Subramanian believes YlnMn blue may eventually be used as an interior paint, but initial products will likely be for exterior applications, “as it is very durable, as shown by accelerated weathering tests,” he says.

Steven J. Hausman, president of Hausman Technology Presentations in Gathersburg, Md., says YlnMn blue’s outdoor possibilities alone are cause for celebration.

“Possible applications can include coating wood decks and masonry and stucco exteriors to keep them cooler and protect them from solar damage, painting the roofs and window frames of sun rooms to reduce heat load, coating playground equipment to keep it cooler to the touch, and incorporating the pigment into awnings to reduce heat uptake,” Hausman says.

Yarimith Karina Jones, interior designer and CEO of Superior Interiors by Karina Jones in Charlotte, N.C., envisions in-ground concrete pools, concrete patios and even doghouses also benefitting from YlnMn blue paint.

“Inside the home, this new blue shade could bode well in the attic or basement, where shifts in temperature are extreme,” Jones says. “Using this blue paint color on the ceiling of a bedroom or a recreational space could also provide a homeowner with all the intrinsic benefits of this paint without necessarily having to commit to such a bold color on all of their walls.”

What’s additionally exciting, Hausman says, “is that this pigment is only the first of a series of new colors that can be created, because the color can be changed by adding different elements.”

So if you’re not crazy about the forthcoming new blue shade, at some point you may be able to choose from different colors within the YlnMn family – including vivid new hues of orange, green, yellow and violet – that offer the same super-durable, energy-efficient, non-toxic properties.

“Currently, we are looking to develop a non-toxic intense red, as most of the existing inorganic red pigments have toxic elements,” Subramanian says.

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