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New blues: The quest to make the world’s rarest colour

作者:柏鋈泌    发布时间:2017-06-24 06:00:34    

The Starry Night, June 1889 (oil on canvas), Gogh, Vincent van (1853-90)/Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA/Bridgeman Images By Joshua Howgego YOU have probably seen The Great Wave off Kanagawa – the Japanese woodblock print of a huge, foaming wave about to engulf a group of small boats. It’s no surprise that the picture is mostly blue; it is a wave after all. However, it is part of a series of images called Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji by the artist Hokusai, and if you flick through them, you will notice that nearly every one is predominantly blue. That might seem strange, until you realise that in 1830, when Hokusai began printing these works, blue was rather a new thing. The Prussian blue he used had been introduced into Japan just a few years earlier, giving artists their first blue pigment that was bright, attractive and lasting. “Historically, blue has been a big issue for artists; there are very few natural blue colours,” says materials scientist David Dobson at University College London. These days, we have plenty of blue dyes, which, being soluble, are ideal for colouring materials uniformly. But the insoluble blue pigments needed for paints, printing inks, ceramics and plastics are still rare. That is why, when Dobson realised that he might be able to create a new one based on a mineral that can exist only at the immense pressures found 500 kilometres beneath Earth’s surface,

 

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