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Materials Science at Oregon State University

Eureka! Moment to the Marketplace: Discovery of New Class of ‘Cool’ Inorganic Color Pigments for Art and Coating Industry

Date: Thursday, Jun 2nd
Presenter: Prof. Mas Subramanian, OSU Chemistry


There is a critical need for new and better functional solid state materials for the realization of next generation devices and applications that fulfill societal needs. New functional materials discovery research is often driven by ‘materials by design’ concept in the quest for finding better, safer and more efficient material by understanding the interrelationships of composition, structure and properties. Occasionally this approach leads to a Eureka! moment resulting in the discovery of materials with properties that are unprecedented and find them very useful in other unintended areas. This talk will describe our spectacular discovery of a new class of highly durable intense blue color pigments based on metal oxides where transition metals occupying a rare trigonal bipyramidal coordination that we were exploring as magnetic capacitors for computer electronics. We have leveraged this serendipitous discovery to rationally design advanced inorganic pigments with intense colors with important functionalities. These pigments show very high near-IR reflectivity (heat) and UV absorption, thus offering a highly durable energy saving ‘cool’ coating for building roofs and automobiles and are now commercially available from pigment manufacturers. This talk will also highlight the importance of serendipity in discovery science and stress the fact that it does require intellectual effort and are not simply a question of luck. Unpredictable results and discoveries are as much a part of scientific endeavor and works well only when an alert mind responds to an unexpected situation reminding us the Louis Pasteur’s famous quote, ‘In the fields of observation, luck favors only the prepared mind’.

Professor Mas Subramanian received his PhD (1982) from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India. Subsequently, he was a NSF postdoctoral fellow at Texas AM University. From 1984 to 2006 he was a scientist at DuPont Company. In 2006, he joined Oregon State University as a Milton Harris Endowed Chair of Materials Science. Professor Subramanian’s research focuses on designing new inorganic solid state functional materials for emerging applications in electronics, energy conversion and environment. He is internationally recognized for several breakthrough scientific discoveries in the field of superconductors, dielectrics, magnetism, catalysis, thermoelectrics and inorganic pigments and were described in his 340 publications and 56 patents. These discoveries were also widely covered in several leading popular science magazines/newspapers all over the world including The New York Times, National Geographic Magazine, Chemical and Engineering News, Science News, Science and Vie (France), Geo Magazine (Germany), Chemistry World (UK), La Monde (France) and The Hindu (India). He is Editor of two international journals (Solid State Sciences and Progress in Solid State Chemistry). Professor Subramanian has received several awards and honors for his outstanding contributions to science including Charles Pedersen Medal awarded by DuPont Company for Excellence in Scientific and Technical Achievement (2004), US National Science Foundation Creativity Award (2012), Chemical Research Society of India International Medal (2012), F.A. Gilfillan Memorial Award from Oregon State University for Distinguished Scholarship in Science (2013) and 2016 Outstanding Scientist Award from Oregon Academy of Science.