Speed Reads


Scientists create 'alien' material so dark you can't even see it

Surrey NanoSystems, a British company, has created a "strange, alien" material "so black that it absorbs all but 0.035 percent of visual light, setting a new world record," The Independent reports.

The material, named Vantablack, which is grown on sheets of aluminum foil and made with a coating of carbon nanotubes, is so dark that it's unrecognizable to the human eye. When the material covers the aluminum foil sheets, it's impossible to see the creases and wrinkles underneath it. Vantablack was described in the Optics Express journal and will be shown at the Farnborough International Airshow this week.

"Many people think black is the absence of light. I totally disagree with that. Unless you are looking at a black hole, nobody has actually seen something which has no light," Stephen Westland, professor of color science and technology at Leeds University, told The Independent. "These new materials, they are pretty much as black as we can get, almost as close to a black hole as we could imagine."

According to The Independent, Vantablack will make astronomical cameras, telescopes, and infrared scanning systems "function more effectively." In more practical uses, Vantablack is used in conjunction with calibrating cameras to photograph "the oldest objects in the universe," which requires a background that's as black as possible. The material also has military uses that Surrey NanoSystems can't discuss. Mysterious!

Unfortunately, the cost of Vantablack is also something Surrey NanoSystems can't — or won't — reveal, so don't get too excited about a Vantablack dress anytime soon.

"You would lose all features of the dress," Ben Jensen, Surrey NanoSystems' chief technical officer, told The Independent. "It would just be something black passing through."