BY LINDA BAKER
Mas Subramanian is feeling blue. But don’t feel sorry for the Oregon State University chemistry professor. A few years ago, Subramanian and his colleagues unexpectedly discovered a new type of blue pigment, a compound that has since been patented. A recent evaluation by a pigment company also showed that the new “cool blue” does an unusually good job of reflecting heat from the sun, paving the way for the development of energy-efficient materials. Light colors are typically better at reflecting heat than dark colors. But the deep-blue pigment, created by heating manganese compounds to 2,000 degrees, has a “heat reflectivity” of 40%, which is significantly higher than other blue pigments. The pigment could be used in exterior paint for cars and roofs to help keep automobiles and buildings cool, says Subramanian, who is now creating other pigment colors with different elements but the same chemical properties. So far his team has created an orange with iron and a green with copper. Red remains elusive; it’s the least durable of pigments, says Subramanian. Not cool blue, which withstood a year in the sun and acid rain without fading. More than practical, the new cobalt looks good, too. “It’s really very eye-catching,” says Subramanian.