“It’s so black, it’s like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none…none…more black.”Nigel Tufnel
MIT engineers report today that they have cooked up a material that is 10 times blacker than anything that has previously been reported. The material is made from vertically aligned carbon nanotubes, or CNTs—microscopic filaments of carbon, like a fuzzy forest of tiny trees, that the team grew on a surface of chlorine-etched aluminum foil. The foil captures more than 99.96 percent of any incoming light, making it the blackest material on record.
The researchers have published their findings today in the journal ACS-Applied Materials and Interfaces. They are also showcasing the cloak-like material as part of a new exhibit today at the New York Stock Exchange, titled “The Redemption of Vanity.”
The artwork, a collaboration between Brian Wardle, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, and his group, and MIT artist-in-residence Diemut Strebe, features a 16.78-carat natural yellow diamond, estimated to be worth $2 million, which the team coated with the new, ultrablack CNT material. The effect is arresting: The gem, normally brilliantly faceted, appears as a flat, black void.
Wardle says the CNT material, aside from making an artistic statement, may also be of practical use, for instance in optical blinders that reduce unwanted glare, to help space telescopes spot orbiting exoplanets.
“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………. 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.”Brian Wardle