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Scientists accidentally create the blackest material ever

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The United States Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers (scientists) have cooked up a material that is 10 times blacker than anything else previously reported.

PHOTO: R. Capanna, A. Berlato, and A. Pinato/Engadget

Capturing more than 99.96 per cent of any incoming light, the material is made of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes (CNTs) grown on chlorine-etched aluminium foil. And it was discovered by accident.

The researchers had actually been experimenting with ways to grow CNTs on electrically conductive materials such as aluminium to boost their electrical and thermal properties, Engadget reported.

“The colour of the resulting material surprised the team, and they only realised what they had invented after they measured its optical reflectance.

In a report by Engadget, the discovery is currently being showcased at an art exhibit titled “The Redemption of Vanity” at the New York Stock Exchange, where a 16.78-carat natural yellow diamond has been coated in the material. Instead of a brilliant, sparkling gem, the stone which is worth an eye-watering $2 million appears as a flat, black void.

However, the team says the material has practical applications, too.

According to Brian Wardle, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, it could be used in optical blinders that reduce unwanted glare, to help space telescopes spot orbiting exoplanets. He said the material could get even blacker still.

“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,” Wardle says.

“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.”


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