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Vantablack successor: the blackest black makes objects "disappear"

Black, blacker, vantablack. The substance was previously considered the deepest black. Now researchers have developed a black that can make the contours of three-dimensional objects disappear entirely

At first glance, the image looks as if it had been edited with Photoshop. Or did these scientists actually manage to hold a black hole in their hands?

No, it is neither a forgery nor the enigmatic astronomical object. The company Surrey NanoSystems has developed a new super black with which they have sprayed the round surface and other objects. It is the successor of the so-called Vantablack, a substance made of aligned carbon nanotubes that was developed for use in measurement technology for space travel and the military.

Vanta is the abbreviation for "V.ertically A.ligned Nano Tube A.rray ", or" vertically arranged nanotube grid ", which in the appropriate composition can absorb around 99.965 percent of the incident visible light as well as ultraviolet and infrared radiation. Each of these tubes has a diameter of 20 nanometers and is 14 to 50 micrometers long. A billion of these carbon nanotubes fit on a surface area of ​​just 1 cm². When light hits this arrangement, it enters the gaps between the tubes and remains trapped in them as it simply reflects back and forth between the tubes.

In order to understand the effect, it says on the website, you should imagine the following scenario: You walk through a forest in which the trees are not 10 or 20, but 3,000 meters high. So you could roughly guess how little light would still reach you on the floor of the forest: namely, hardly a perceptible amount - if at all.

As a researcher explains in the video, this new type of black is not a nanotube grid coating made of carbon, but a new technology that is more similar to a paint. The special thing about it: No spectrometer in the world can even record whether and how much incident light is still reflected.

While the contours of an object covered with a black cloth would normally still be clearly visible, this new black manages to make the three-dimensionality of objects seem to disappear - even when they are illuminated with a direct flash. Even when the researchers shine a high-performance laser pointer onto a black surface of this type, no reflection can be seen. For the human eye, this creates the illusion of looking into nothing. Telescopes, infrared scanners and cameras can make use of this technology.

There are more photos on the Surrey NanoSystems website.