New Polaroid Reclaimed Blue film chemistry was discovered by accident

Apr 6, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

New Polaroid Reclaimed Blue film chemistry was discovered by accident

Apr 6, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Polaroid has announced the release of a new instant film. It’s called Reclaimed Blue 600, and it’s an original film chemistry formula that Polaroid says was discovered by accident. While Polaroid certainly isn’t what it used to be, they still have a single lab for developing new chemical processes. Through experimentation, he accidentally discovered a new interaction that allowed Polaroid to produce the new limited edition film.

Unlike other duochrome and monochrome films, which require a dye to make colours stand out. Reclaimed Blue, on the other hand, gets its colour directly from the chemical reaction. This reaction is due to a chemistry they call TBHQ – a chemical used in Polaroid’s black & white films – when added to their colour chemistry. The formula was discovered by a “young chemist” named Brian Slaghuis.

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According to the press release, Slaghuis made the discovery through “accidental experimentation” after testing out-of-spec materials. The out-of-spec TBHQ creates a chemical reaction that produces blue photographs without the need for any kind of dye. It’s simply a result of the chemical reaction itself.

From the Polaroid press release:

In the spirit of innovation, Polaroid is proud to announce the release of Reclaimed Blue 600 film, an original film chemistry discovered through accidental experimentation. At the only Polaroid film factory in the world, a young chemist developed the new chemical process, inventing the striking blue film. Inspired by the challenge of using out-of-spec materials, Polaroid chemist Brian Slaghuis reclaimed those elements to create the limited-edition 600 film.

“At the Polaroid lab, I’ve tested over 200 different chemicals as we’re constantly improving our film chemistry. After experimenting with one called TBHQ, the Reclaimed Blue film was an incredible discovery by accident,” Brian Slaghuis, Polaroid Chemist said.

Reclaimed Blue 600 film is unlike other duochrome or monochrome films that require dye to make the colors stand out. Instead, Reclaimed Blue is the result of a chemical reaction. Thank you for the blues TBHQ. But: what does that mean. TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone) is the magician added to otherwise normal film paste. Normally used in black and white film, the theory is TBHQ gives direction to the other 12 chemicals in classic Polaroid color film to make the existing cyan color strong enough to take over the other colors present.

Polaroid says that the experimentation is not over, and invites photographers to try out the new film to experiment with themselves, to see what kind of images they can create. As for Polaroid, they’ll no doubt continue to experiment with chemicals to see what other new formula combinations they can discover to provide photographers with something new to try.

Polaroid Reclaimed Blue - Colour Gamut

What’s particularly interesting about this reaction is that nobody seems to understand why it happens. Not even Brian, Polaroid says, the chemist who discovered the formula. They say they have a theory but unless it’s just marketing speak, they don’t really know for sure. Well, let’s hope they figure it out and it becomes a permanent product. For now, though, it’s a limited edition.

Polaroid Reclaimed Blue 600 is available to buy now worldwide from the Polaroid website for $16.99/€16.99/£16.99. There are 8 instant photos available in each pack and orders are limited to ten packs per customer.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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