MIT Scientists Discover Shade of Black 10 Times Blacker Than Other Blacks
There's that old phrase about something being "the new black" to mean it's what's in vogue now. When some MIT scientists talk about a new material they've developed as "the new black," they mean that it's a black that's 10 times blacker than any previously reported black, absorbing 99.99 percent of light.
The material is made from carbon nanotubes, and was created by accident. The team of scientists were working on different ways to create those carbon nanotubes by growing them on aluminum. They realized that a layer of oxide would coat the aluminum when it was exposed to air, and used salt to dissolve it. After that, they transferred the material to an oxygen-free environment and placed in an oven. It was at this point that they noticed the insane blackness of the material.
Yes, even blacker than Vantablack. https://t.co/ezEserhWKt
— VICE (@VICE) September 16, 2019
"I remember noticing how black it was before growing carbon nanotubes on it, and then after growth it looked even darker," MIT scientist Kehang Cui said, according to Newsweek. "So I thought I should measure the optical reflectance of the sample."
"Any object covered with this [carbon nanotube] material loses all its plasticity and appears entirely flat, abbreviated/reduced to a black silhouette," Diemut Strebe, an artist who worked with the scientists, said.
So, what do we do with this information, and what can people do with this blacker-than-black color?
It could be used to hide diamonds for art, as diamonds are highly reflective. It could also be used in telescopes to reduce glare.
"There are optical and space science applications for very black materials, and of course, artists have been interested in black going back well before the Renaissance," said Brian Wardle, head of the group at MIT. "Our material is 10 times blacker than anything that's ever been reported, but I think the blackest black is a constantly moving target. Someone will find a blacker material, and eventually we'll understand all the underlying mechanisms, and will be able to properly engineer the ultimate black."