In 2014 Engineers at Surrey Nanosystems created Vantablack, a material that could absorb 99.96% of the light that hits it. It holds the world record as the darkest man-made substance and is so black that it becomes extremely difficult to detect any surface features, with three-dimensional objects becoming two-dimensional.
Now, Surrey Nanosystems have broken their own world record creating a new material so black that it can’t be measured, meaning that it is likely to be absorbing 99.99% of light.
In the Youtube video below, Researchers demonstrate just how black this new Vantablack is by shining a red laser pointer across the material. Our eyes find it difficult to process what we are seeing:
“In truth, it could be said that it is almost impossible to “see” Vantablack as so little light is reflected from the surface. However, the observer’s brain of course tries to make sense of what it is seeing, with the result that some people describe it like looking into a hole!”.
There are a number of applications for Vantablack including space-borne optical systems, solar energy, sensors, architecture and even cinematography.
Described as a “functionalised ‘forest’ of millions upon millions of incredibly small tubes made of carbon, or carbon nanotubes”, each nanotube is about 3,500 times smaller than the diameter of the average human hair, packed so tight light gets trapped inside.
Whilst Vantablack isn’t paint and its surface is easily damaged by any direct impact or abrasion, Surrey NanoSystems have tested the material for space application where it could be used to calibrate NASA’s powerful cameras to take more accurate photos of our universe.
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