back to article US boffins create darkest material ever

US researchers announced yesterday they'd concocted the darkest material on the planet - a carbon nanotube substance so black it absorbs more than 99.9 per cent of light, Reuters reports. In fact, the stuff's so unrelentingly black it's "30 times darker than a carbon substance used by the US National Institute of Standards and …

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To all the HHGTTG freaks..

Hagunennons

From the radio series - the original, and best, HHGTTG

Sorry, but sometimes points have to be made.

I wonder what would happen if you mixed this with the whitest substance in the world - would they cancel out, or just form a dull, boring, middle-of-the-road grey, and be the new black and white

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Black???

This is all nonsense. There is no such thing as black. Black requires a total absence of light - minus infinity Lux. Even black holes come in different shades!

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Coat

Can you see it?

Without wishing to be *too* pedantic, black is presumably the "albedo" of this material, but it may reflect light specularly like a black mirror ... so you can see your face ... in both sides. This would make it possible to discern features, even though it's none ... none more black.

I'd probably feel a lot worse about people not considering the material's full BRDF if I wasn't under such heavy sedation.

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Coat

Black is black

ooh-ooh oooooh

I want my baby back

And grey is grey

Since she went away...

... with my coat.

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The Researchers

Predictably, the first thing the researchers did with the new substance was to spill it on their white lab coats.

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i'm only wearing black until they make something darker

time for the t-shirt manufacturers to jump on this...

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Thumb Up

Fulgin!

Gene Wolfe fans will remember Severian's cloak of Fulgin -- a colour "darker than black".

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ian
Black Helicopters

Does this mean?

Does this mean that Lucas Electric have lost the title "Prince of Darkness" to the Yanks? See http://www.hermit.cc/mania/tmc/articles/lucas.htm.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Can you see it?

>it may reflect light specularly like a black mirror

"All the light that goes in is basically absorbed. It is almost pushing the limit of how much light can be absorbed into one material."

I guess not.

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Re: Why carcinogenic

AC wrote:

"Is all carbon, and by extension, all things made from carbon carcinogenic then?"

Bare Carbon nanotubes are more reactive than most other forms of carbon. They are also of a similar size to asbestos fibres and can be absorbed deep in the lungs.

This has lead to concern from some scientists about whether there could toxicity issues.

Tests are ongoing to determine if they're toxic and whether coating the nanotubes has any effect.

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Heart

Hot Black

"It's the wild colour scheme that freaks me," said Zaphod whose love affair with this ship had lasted almost three minutes into the flight, "Every time you try to operate one of these weird black controls that are labelled in black on a black background, a little black light lights up black to let you know you've done it. What is this? Some kind of galactic hyperhearse?"

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Silver badge

Now we need this for Automotive paint

Hopefully it will absorb radar, but even if it didn't, when they take a picture for exceeding the limit, all they will see is a black blob with no details. What fun! Now if they can get light to bend around it somehow. Wonderful cloaking devices these things.

Ah, but to dream.

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Coat

Tooney

I'm going to paint holes in the sidewalk.

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Coat

Eureka!

At last I know from what wompoms are made - clearly they are composed of carbon nanotubes. To quote the original, "there is nothing that a wampon cannot do."

Gaudeamus wompom!

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Anonymous Coward

Carcinogenic

"Is all carbon, and by extension, all things made from carbon carcinogenic then?"

Is not all about elements. Mollecular structure is the key and defines material properties. Diamonds are also made of carbon, but no all carbon-based materials are the hardest natural material in the universe.

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Anonymous Coward

Blackest Supercar

If you actually used a Lamborghini coated in this stuff, it would very soon just look like a dirty black Lamborghini wouldn't it? How do these nanotubes hold up against the average car-wash I wonder?

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Boffin

@Eddie

But remember that after proving the non-existence of God, Man proved that black is white, so this is the whitest stuff ever, too!

Of course, the downside is, Ajayan's bundling this stuff with his record smallest brush, so it takes a lifetime to apply...

DNA icon? oh, this will do -- he was a genius.

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Boffin

Bright black?

I wonder if it hurts your eyes to look at it.

If you had a 6-inch square of this carbon nanotube material on a brightly-lit table and looked at it, would your brain want to register it as a six-inch square void; making you want to look deeper into it in the hopes of seeing stars (much like 2001's Monolith)?

Just for a larf, I'm waiting for the stuff that will suck some of the ambient light around it so it "glows" black.

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Paris Hilton

Energy

Wheres all that light energy gone.

Is it going to be turned into heat?

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Gatso counter measures

Yep, finally a solution to all those speeding tickets!

But might be hard to find your car at Heathrow when returning on a night flight...

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Paris Hilton

Easier

"I'd like a floormat made of this, that way people walking up to my house would think twice. On a nice bright sunny day, there is this 2 dimensional looking black.... no texture, no reflection... no contrast... just black."

Easier still:

Put "Welcome Follower" on your mat, and a sign saying "Press Bell for Cult Leader"

PH is my Cult Leader

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Happy

@Priest's Socks

That's the sort of thing that wackypedia would pick up on and get all wrong and then set it in stone.

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Terry Pratchett said it best

Darker than the inside of a cat.

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J
Paris Hilton

Miscellaneous

"Trying to figure this out is making my brain itch, inside"

OK, here's what you gotta do. Stick your finger up your nose, completely, and scratch it! We don't accept returns.

"i'm only wearing black until they make something darker"

Google it, and you'll find a few places that sell something like that -- although I haven't seen any that has black lettering... :-) One stupid store even sells it in different colours. I guess they did not get the joke...

"How do these nanotubes hold up against the average car-wash I wonder?"

I would guess that the owner of such a car wouldn't go to an average car-wash, but have top less babes do the service at his own mansion, manually...

Paris because she can scratch her brain with her finger and would be a passable car washer.

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Needs a namin' Stil

So we can say to the NIST "X is the new black!"

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@Terry Pratchett said it best

Gah I read all the way through the comments to check if I could mention that first, but you've got it barely before me!

And yes, that was the best way to say dark ever. The only problem with Pratchett is that I have to continuously pause his audio books so that I can have a laugh at things like that and not miss anything...

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Anonymous Coward

Change of wardrobe

I used to tell people "I only wear black becasue hey havent made a darker colour"

Now i'm gonna have to buy new clothes. Bastards!

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Tom
Jobs Halo

BLACK Turtleneck.

The stuff was actually developed by Apple for use in Mr. Jobs' MacWorld apparel next year.

It will also be used to finally and complete resolve all "negative black issues" with the iPhone/iTouch products.

How dark is it? It is almost, but not quite, as dark as the lifeless gap between synapses in the average fanboy’s frontal lobe.

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The colour already has got a name:

"Octarine".

@Mitch Russell: Can't believe you quoted Terry Pratchett without mentioning this!

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Black Helicopters

Feh.

Come up with the Predator's light-bending "invisibility shield" and *then* I'll be impressed!

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

@Paul

"But might be hard to find your car at Heathrow when returning on a night flight..."

Nah, just look for a funny, almost car-shaped (depending of your angle of approach) hole in the universe.

A black "cat suit" sticks out like a dog's nuts even at night time as there is usually some ambient light around (only times I've experienced true, total darkness was some kilometre or so into a cave system and inside a commercial photographic darkroom and in those conditions you are invisible even if dressed in the whitest stuff you can find) this stuff would make an even bigger contrast at night as even a cat suit reflects ambient light to a degree.

FWIW, dark greys, blues, browns and greens make better night-time camouflage, especially if mixed so they break up the shape of a human body (say 2-tone brown and green jacket and dark blue pants) - they can easily get lost in the jumble of "light" and shadow at night... far better than a mono-colour obviously humanoid shape...

Anyway, I now want a complete outfit made of this substance - no more going through my wardrobe frantically looking for pants, shirt and jacket that are all the same shade of "black".

Anyone else think this stuff would be great for Death's robes in the next movie adaptation of a Terry Pratchett novel?

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Boffin

What about the physics?

If it absorbs 99.7% of visible light (presumably some infrared and ultraviolet too) it's going to get pretty hot, pretty quickly isn't it?

It should start to glow pretty bright in IR at least, somewhat negating stealth properties and making goths even more sweaty-smelly than usual. (I'm in Australia - goths in 35C summer heat don't smell very nice)

I guess with some major heatsinking it could work, but that really negates the stealth. Sounds like a useful material for solar panels / heatsinks, but not a lot else.

PS - there was a shoe ad here that had a goth in a shoestore holding up a boot saying 'got any blacker?' I guess the answer is 'yes'. Or 'none'

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Black Helicopters

Or as Eric Olthwaite would say...

Black Pudding is very black today mother.

Icon was chosen because... well you know

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Coat

Black day for science then.....

Sorry

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Alien

Re: What about the physics?

A 2 thousand billion ton heatsink? Would be good for anybody going flare-riding…

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is it good for advanced cameras?

these are tubes right? so can you get or make a photo cell that fits the end.

if so wouldnt these things make the best possible digital cameras and yet be super light for deployment in something like an interstella array?

im assuming if it works, its going to be better than the current super expensive mirrors up there now...

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Sam
Coat

carcinogenic?

So, if you sat in a room painted with this stuff and it WAS injurious to your health, you could expect to hear a voice close to your ear saying; DARK IN HERE, ISN'T IT?

The cloak and scythe, thanks.

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Black Helicopters

Big Pete...

...has it right. Eric Olthwaite's mum's black pudding has this stuff well beaten - it were so black, even the white bits were black.

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Coat

RE: Void

... you might get eaten by a grue.

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Jon
Joke

Ultra black

In order to 'see' this, all you do is take a good long run at a wall, with your head down. The colour you see flashing before your eyes just before you die, is that black. - with apologies to Einsturzunde Neubauten and Terry Pratchett (and yes my German is not up to scratch)....

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Coat

...But according to Milton...

"His dark materials to create more Worlds,"

Which means that Philip Pullman would never be able to even find his coat.

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@Ash

> What would an object with a total reflective index of 0 look like? Would you be able to see it?

No, but you'd probably notice where it wasn't visible...

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Paris Hilton

Miscellaneous bits of black

A few random points, relevant to some of the earlier comments:

Current stealth technology depends mainly on the geometry of the aircraft: the surfaces are so angled that hardly any of them reflect back any part of a radar beam. Hence the weird non-aerodynamic shape of stealth fighters and bombers, and the need to have a computer to fly them, since they won't glide.

The radar signature of the average stealth aircraft is the size of an eagle's eye, not the whole eagle (a selling point strongly pushed by the Lockheed Skunkworks during development).

Lockheed nicked the basic idea from a technical paper published by a Soviet scientist who did the maths back in the 1950s (or early on, anyway) before computers were adequate to the job of keeping such a thing airborne.

If you change the geometry, you lose your invisibility. During the first Gulf War, a stealth pilot reported that his bomb bay jammed open, whereupon he was lit up like a Christmas tree and saw a radar-guided missile homing in on him. Fortunately, his bomb bay doors unjammed in the nick of time, and the missile careered off (muttering "Where'd he go?", presumably). Ultra-black paint would avoid the geometry problem, but you would then be faced with keeping it clean, since muck would clog the pores on the paint and make it reflective.

Regarding seeing a non-reflective object as a hole in the background: that is why stealth ships were not developed. The concept was tried, but there is significant radar reflection from waves at sea, and a stealth ship shows up nicely as a ship-shaped black hole in the radar background.

Furry cars were tried back in the 1970s (not sure of the precise date). The intention was novelty, not invisibility. They were covered with a special paint that used electrostatic charge to raise "hairs" on the surface after being sprayed on, giving a matt finish. The effect was disappointing. A car body is designed so that it reflects attractive highlights. Remove the reflection, and the result is just dull. Add to that the fact that the "hairs" wore off in patches. I saw one once, and it looked like a mangy beetle. (In fact, it was a Beetle.) Furry cars were a seven-day wonder. So much for civilian artistic uses.

Whoever said it would be good for the anarchist flag is forgetting that said flag is black and red. If you want pure black flags or shirts, join a slightly different party.

Paris Hilton since she looks better sprayed gold than matt black all over.

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Coat

getting my coat already...

awaits a label on this new stuff that says "also available in black"...

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