Vantablack: ‘Black Hole’ Material Absorbs Almost All Light

A British manufacturer has created a new type of material that absorbs almost all of the visible light surrounding it, growing it on sheets of aluminum foil and naming it Vantablack.

The material sets a new world record, according to The Independant, absorbing all but 0.035 percent of visible light. Manufactured from carbon nanotubes that are 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, it is so densely woven that any light that travels between the nanofibers bounces between them and cannot escape before it is absorbed.

The material is so dark that scientists have described it as like “looking at a black hole.” Much like a black hole, Vantablack is so dark that your eyes don’t actually see it, but rather observe the space around it, inferring that something must be present in the inky void. Vantablack shares that quality with black holes, celestial sinkholes with gravitational fields strong enough to prevent the escape of light. A rare trio of black holes was recently discovered, as The Inquisitr reported.

Surrey NanoSystems, the company that created Vantablack, is hesitant to explain exactly how the material works, yet it has revealed that “Vanta” stands for “vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays.” The company is also known for low-temperature atomic deposition processes, as ExtremeTech reports, so some observes have postulated that Vantablack is essentially the atomic layer deposition of carbon nanotubes on an aluminum substrate.

Vantablack has a variety of applications, according to io9, including astronomical cameras, telescopes, and infrared scanning systems. The carbon material has minimal levels of off-gassing, so it won’t contaminate sensitive instruments, and in astronomical applications, it can help improve data sets through a reduction of light contamination.

Previous studies have shown that vertically aligned carbon nanotubes, if woven together densely enough, allow light to come in, but then don’t let the photons out again. Stephen Westland, Professor of Color Science at Leeds University, describes Vantablack as an extreme form of the color:

“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. These new materials, they are pretty much as black as we can get, almost as close to a black hole as we could imagine.”

The company’s CTO, Ben Jensen, explained that even wrinkles and folds in the material are not visible. “You expect to see the hills [of the bends and crumples],” he posited, adding “all you can see … it’s like black, like a hole, like there’s nothing there. It just looks so strange.”

[Image via Mental Floss]