OSU pigment discovery expanding new colours

OSU pigment discovery expanding to new colours

1:15 PM, 30th July 2011
OSU pigment discovery expanding to new colours
Crystalline structure of new pigments.

CORVALLIS, US: Chemists at Oregon State University have discovered that the same crystal structure they identified two years ago to create what may be the world’s best blue pigment can also be used with different elements to create other colours, with significant potential in the paint and pigment industries.

First on the list, appropriately, is a brilliant orange pigment - appropriate for the OSU Beavers whose team colours are black and orange. But the broader potential for these pigments, researchers said, is the ability to tweak essentially the same chemical structure in slightly different ways to create a whole range of new colours. These colour used in pigments may be safer to produce, durable and environmentally benign than many of those that now exist.

“The basic crystal structure we’re using for these pigments was known before, but no one had ever considered using it for any commercial purpose, including pigments,” said Mas Subramanian, the Milton Harris Professor of Materials Science, Department of Chemistry, OSU.

“All of these colours should share the same characteristics of being extremely stable, durable and resistant to heat and acid,” he said. “And they are based on the same crystal structure, so minor adjustments to the technology will produce different colours and high quality pigments.”

OSU has already applied for a patent on this technology, samples are now being tested by private industry and the latest findings were published recently in Inorganic Chemistry, a journal of the American Chemical Society. The research has been supported by the National Science Foundation.

This invention evolved from an accidental discovery in 2009 in an OSU lab, where Subramanian was exploring some manganese oxides. When a sample had been heated to almost 2,000 degree Fahrenheit, the compound turned a vivid blue.

It was found that this chemistry had interesting properties that affects the absorption of light and consequently its colour. So Subramanian and his research team, including OSU Professor Emeritus Art Sleight, quickly shifted their electronics research into what may become a revolution in the paint and pigment industry. Future applications may range from inkjet printers to automobiles or even ordinary house paint.

The work created, at first, a beautiful blue pigment, dating back to the Han dynasty in China, ancient Egyptians and Mayan culture. The scientists studied this unusual “Trigonal-bypyramidal co-ordination,” of crystalline structure, atoms that are combined in a certain five-part co-ordinated network. The scientists discovered that the same structure will produce other colours simply by substituting different elements.

“The new orange pigment is based on iron and we might use copper and titanium for a green pigment,” Subramanian said. “Yellow and deep brown should be possible, and we should be able to make a new red pigment. A lot of red pigments are now made with cadmium and mercury, which can be toxic.

“These should all be very attractive for commercial use,” he said.

(C) Oregon State University News




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