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United Kingdom Science Technology

Scientists Have Developed a Material So Dark That You Can't See It 238

gbjbaanb writes A British company is developing a new material that's so black it absorbs all but 0.035 percent of the visual light, making it the darkest material ever created. Of course, apart from making album covers, it conducts heat 7 times better than copper and is 10 times stronger than steel. "The nanotube material, named Vantablack, has been grown on sheets of aluminium foil by the Newhaven-based company. While the sheets may be crumpled into miniature hills and valleys, this landscape disappears on areas covered by it. 'You expect to see the hills and all you can see it's like black, like a hole, like there's nothing there. It just looks so strange,' said Ben Jensen, the firm's chief technical officer.
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Scientists Have Developed a Material So Dark That You Can't See It

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  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @04:14PM (#47444349)

    And I took a photo [] of the material.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 13, 2014 @04:16PM (#47444369)

    It's the weird colour scheme that freaks me. Every time you try to operate one of these weird black controls, which are labeled in black on a black background, a small black light lights up black to let you know you've done it. Hey, what is this, some kind of galactic hyper-hearse?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's what happens when you try to steal Hotblack Desiato's stunt ship...

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      It's the weird colour scheme that freaks me. Every time you try to operate one of these weird black controls, which are labeled in black on a black background, a small black light lights up black to let you know you've done it. Hey, what is this, some kind of galactic hyper-hearse?

      You kids with your fancy book references just make me laugh. When I think of HHGTTG, I think of the radio plays, with Peter Jones as the book, and the Haggunenon Admiral's flagship.

      Ahh .. the good old days.

      Now git off my lawn.

      • by hendersj ( 720767 ) on Monday July 14, 2014 @12:42AM (#47446635)

        That was my thought as well. The more appropriate quote, too, was not regarding the interior of the ship, which was merely black (and lots of it), but the exterior of the ship. Ford's line before the entered the ship - "It's so black - you can hardly even make out its shape. Light just falls into it." - seemed a much better fit for this story.

  • Bet it can be seen just fine in the far infrared.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 13, 2014 @04:20PM (#47444397)

    And the answer is none. None more black.

  • The helicopters hovering over my house.

  • by Rah'Dick ( 976472 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @04:22PM (#47444413)

    I hear a Mr. Hotblack Desiato wants to buy all of it. The material and the team that invented it... He also might buy the whole solar system while he's at it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Zocalo ( 252965 )
      Since he's currently spending a year dead for tax reasons I doubt that would be the case, but in any event since it's only totally black and not totally frictionless as well I don't think it would be suitable for crashing into a star at the climax of the next Disaster Area concert anyway.
    • I hear a Mr. Hotblack Desiato wants to buy all of it. The material and the team that invented it... He also might buy the whole solar system while he's at it.

      I'm sorry, the Autarch has bought it all up for the Society of Seekers for Truth and Penitence to make fuligrin cloaks.

  • So it's like staring into hyperspace?

  • by big_e_1977 ( 2012512 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @04:26PM (#47444433)

    Daily Mail []

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 13, 2014 @04:52PM (#47444565)

      better article

      Daily Mail

      This material appears to be so black that it made me black out and wake up in a crazy alternate universe where a Daily Mail article isn't considered to be absolutely terrible.

      • Well, it is better than the article linked in the summary.
        The daily mail actually has pictures of the stuff.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        When I clicked on it there was provocative picture of a 16 year old in the sidebar. Technically legal in the UK but it still creeps me out to think of the old men at the Daily Mail admiring it.

        Now I feel dirty for giving them advertising revenue. At least I had AdBlock turned on.

  • by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @04:32PM (#47444451)
    Can't remember if he got them from Acme or not...
    • by dbc ( 135354 )

      Not to mention _The And and the Aardvark_:
      "I hate you, instant hole!" the Blue Aardvark

  • I think her soul is made out of this material.

  • I moderated /. (emitted my energy). But the world is not more enlightened, because I was counter-moderated (anti-doesn't-matter). We may need this device/material to more accurately graph our lack of enlightenment, given the energy (carbon) submitted. Already available, BTW, on /. beta.
  • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @04:36PM (#47444481) Journal

    If this stuff where painted around the entrance of a curved tunnel and sun light shone on to it, if you you could only see the painted material then you would most 100% definitively see sunlight shining off of it.

    Bright daylight being 10,000 foot candles and 1 candle light being something that we can see, 0.035% = 2,857 to 1 ratio.

  • Your Flagship is ready after its respray.

  • Polar Bear in a snow storm, then....
  • I'm guessing we know now, what material Hotblack Desiato used to coat Disaster Area's ship....

    I imagine it would also be appropriate for the Batmobile.

    ..and my next motorcycle.

  • Since she went all Goth, she claimed she was only wearing black till they invented something darker.

    She'll wallow in this.

  • As I recall, the protagonist in "The Shadow of The Torturer" wears a costume and cape made of a perfect black material so that all you see when he walks towards you is an irregular shifting black shape of perfect darkness.

    With an axe, and eyes.

    It was a good book. The rest of the series? Eh.

  • I can imagine that (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It is so happens that in computer graphics 3d object can be flat shaded, as a uniform color. In this case it is impossible to distinquish some characteristics and the object looks unnatural. So I believe I totally understand how the object should look. however we are used to unrealistic stuff in PC screen, however wrong looking objects in real life would be something really interesting.

  • Inside of cameras (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 )

    This is going to be useful for the insides of optical systems, lens hoods, and such. Other than that, probably not that significant.

    • by deroby ( 568773 )

      I didn't research so forgive my ignorance, but if they might be able to produce this cheaply and durably; having a couple of m2 of it on your roof might be great for capturing solar energy; especially given it's heat conducting properties. It would look weird though.

      That said, didn't we have a similar article on /. quite a while ago where they showed off something similar (might have been it reflected (quite) a bit more) yet I haven't read/heard anything from it after that...

      • Re:Inside of cameras (Score:5, Informative)

        by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @06:58PM (#47445151) Homepage

        I didn't research so forgive my ignorance

        It gets this property from its fine surface structure, which is a forest of tubes. Incoming light has to be reflected many times before it gets back out, so a black material is effectively made even less reflective. It's the optical-scale version of the pointed absorbers used in anechoic chambers. []

        It probably is not going to retain its blackness when exposed to water, dirt, or wear. Superhydrophobic coatings such as Never Wet [] have the same problem - they work because they're composed of tiny points, so droplets of liquid don't have a surface they can grab. But after some wear, the effect stops working. (See any of the many "NeverWet fails" videos on YouTube.)

        This is likely to be great for protected environments, such as inside optical systems. It should be useful for optical sensors in space, too. But it's probably an inherently fragile surface. That limits its uses. (The "stronger than steel" probably refers to the individual carbon nanotubes, not the bulk material.)

        This s a problem with a lot of surface chemistry stuff touted as "nanomaterials". They have interesting surface properties, but the surfaces are fragile, because they're some very thin surface layer with an unusual structure. If you protect that structure with some coating, you lose the effect.

    • Other than that, probably not that significant.

      Is it possible that you perhaps haven't considered every single possible application this might have?

    • To the people who make optical systems, lens hoods, and such... I'd imagine it's pretty significant. Not every discovery needs to world changing to be significant.

  • by Space ( 13455 )

    Build a monolith covered withthe stuff. Sounds about how it is described in the books.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @05:08PM (#47444647) Journal

    This is the sort of material which could be used for artificial hearts for lawyers, bankers, and politicians.

  • Or orange, blue, green. They'll never be able to market it unless they figure out what users want.
  • Paint for a room (Score:5, Interesting)

    by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @05:32PM (#47444763) Homepage Journal

    Imagine the surreal experience of opening a door to a room painted floor to ceiling with vantablack and only a small area rug serving as an "island" with a wing chair, ottoman and side table with table lamp floating in space, I can only wonder if you'd get a floating sensation while sitting in the chair.

    Another, more cynical part of me suspects that our Government's Intelligence community is already planning on creating such rooms to "enhance" interrogation or make solitary confinement more solitary.

    • A windowless room with a shielded door is waaay cheaper, and at least as effective.

      • Not at all. I'm talking about a lit lamp illuminating the seating area creating a "floating island", not just a dark room with no lights.
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Imagine the surreal experience of opening a door to a room painted floor to ceiling with...

      Some tan dude in John Lennon glasses keeps asking me to select between 2 pills there

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      OK. So there are actually 51 shades of gray.

  • That can't be good for your eyes.

    Blacker than the blackest black, times infinity.

  • Do I make the His Dark Materials joke, or the fuligin joke?

  • by davidannis ( 939047 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @05:42PM (#47444815) Homepage
    I wonder if this has applications in solar power. If you have 100% of light absorbed, the energy has to go somewhere - presumably it heats up.
  • How long before Neil Gaiman has a t-shirt made of it?

  • Mick Jagger developed this in the '60s, before he became a specialist in historical cryptography :

    Paint it Black []

  • My evil black cat is far darker than that. She is a sink of evil, absorbing all light in a room. If she were much blacker I'd suspect I'd have a tame black hole living with me before, jumping up onto my bed, waking me up to be petted, and then proceeding to try to bite me. Things just don't get blacker than that!

    • Your cat lets you pet it? Mine is eviler.

      Chew Toy (really the dogs cat) just bites me and demands food. When I get to hell, I expect him to be there to torment me.

      My black cat is a pussycat in comparison to the red devil.

  • Solar panels (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Windwraith ( 932426 ) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @06:51PM (#47445127)

    This could be really interesting to use in thermal solar panels (in layman terms: the ones for water heating, not the ones to get electricity). If it absorbs so much light, it's probably more efficient than other materials, and surely much more than black paint. This could raise the efficiency of thermal panels to near 95%, so I hope this becomes a thing.

    I wouldn't cover a car with it, though. I don't want to experience a solar oven first-hand.

  • Science-fiction comes true. Sort of. Jack London (better known for "The Call of the Wild") published a story in 1903 entitled "The Shadow and the Flash," online here. [] The plot in part turns on the concept of a perfectly black pigment. It is a good story--much better than you'd guess from a summary. As to the optics London was either confused or exercising creative license:

    "'Color is a sensation," he was saying.... 'Without light, we can see neither colors nor objects themselves. All objects are black in th

  • Defeatable by dust or spray paint?
  • Man, I'd love that stuff cooling my LEDs! The tiniest bit of airflow over something like that would be all one needs to keep even intense arrays like the MK-R cool.

    I wonder if this could be grown on the backside of an MCPCB, negating the need for a heat sink and allowing just a fan over it to cool.

  • Nigel Tufnel: "It's like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black."
  • ... is the color that is blacker than black, quoth Gene Wolfe in _The Shadow of the Torturer._

  • by Trogre ( 513942 )

    Can I use it to line the inner surface of my telescope?

  • and lawyers are likely on their way to the Newhaven lab as we speak.
  • If you did high-school physics you may have heard about black body radiation and a thing called a black box - a box that absorbs all light that enters it. This could be a box with a hole in it lined with light-absorbing material, such that any light entering the hole never goes out again. That hole is essentially "black" and can be very, very black indeed. It can be so black, that your mind can play tricks on you as to what it is. This experience occurred to me at work in the, ahem, Gent's, with a toilet ro
  • So how come a Google search for this comes up with zero technical/industry/science news sites?
    That said, I fully believe that an end on view of a stack of nanotubes should be extremely dark.
    • Google isn't perfect and this is a press release. Give it a couple of days. There's lots of hype around the Farnborough air show this week.

  • Or as Gene Wolfe called it in The Book of the New Sun, "Fuligin, the color that is darker than black." And since Wolfe didn't make up any new words, that means "fuligin" is a real word from some older time.

  • I get the feeling that if you were to brush those little tubes off of the surface they were grown on they'd make asbestos seem like candy floss in comparison!

  • Goths of the world rejoice!

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...