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Scientists Develop the Blackest Black Material

Is Vantablack the new black? Billed the blackest black in the world, the new material, unveiled by British nanotech company Surrey NanoSystems at the U.K. Farnborough International Air Show Monday, absorbs all but 0.035% of light that shines on it. The previous record for black was 0.04%.

Vantablack is the result of applying Surrey NanoSystems’ patented low-temperature carbon nanotube growth process to the U.K. Technology Strategy Board’s ‘Space for Growth’ program, working alongside the National Physical Laboratory and Enersys’ ABSL Space Products division. Described as “staring into an abyss,” the material is intended for military and aeronautic use.

Ben Jensen, chief technology officer, Surrey NanoSystems said, “Vantablack is a major breakthrough by U.K. industry in the application of nanotechnology to optical instrumentation. For example, it reduces stray-light, improving the ability of sensitive telescopes to see the faintest stars, and allows the use of smaller, lighter sources in space-borne black body calibration systems. Its ultra-low reflectance improves the sensitivity of terrestrial, space and air-borne instrumentation.”

Made of carbon nanotubes, Jensen noted that the material grows rapidly. “We grow the tubes like a field of carbon grass. The tubes are spaced apart. When a light particle hits the material, it gets between the tubes and bounces around, is absorbed and converted to heat. Light goes in, but it can’t get back out,” he told the Guardian.

Surrey NanoSystems has already delivered its first orders, however, for now the fashion industry will have to settle for basic black as there are not yet plans for commercial use of the material.