DEC 04, 2017 09:31 AM PST

What is blacker than black?


Here's a mind-twister: the color we call black is not actually black, in the sense that black is supposed to be the color we call that absorbs all light but most things that are black actually do not absorb all light. But getting closer to this all-light-absorbing color has some real serious scientific uses, which is why a UK company has been working on developing a substance that can absorb 99.9% of all light. The product, called Vantablack, is "so black that it changes the dimensionality of an object" (see the video for an example), and the scientists who created it say that it, in fact, is not a color, but the absence of color. Sound confusing? It is! Vantablack is what happens when almost no light is reflected back at you when you look at it, so your brain in turn "paints it as black".

But while the creation may look like paint, it is not. Made of up microscopic carbon nanotubes, author Cassia St. Clair says, "It's pretty much like a black hole." The scientists describe the nanotubes as long pieces of grass stacked really close to each other such that no light could pass through.

The creation of Vantablack is an important step in understanding out space with more precision. Vantablack is capable of preventing lens flares in powerful telescopes, allowing us to capture more accurate images of space. Artists are also jumping on the Vantablack train, with one architect even pursuing a project to cover a building with the product for the 2018 Olympics! Want to learn more? Watch the video!
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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