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The More You Know!: The Blackest Material Ever

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7

Before we talk about the actual material we need to talk about what blackness is. We can see colour because of light, when light hits and object red, blue and green light reflect off of it and into our eyes; depending on the colour of the material changes the amount of light from the three colours is reflected back. A white t-shirt reflects most of the light that hits it but a black t-shirt absorbs it. This is why wearing a black shirt in the summer will make you hotter faster. The colour of your shirt is absorbing the light and converting it into heat.

Red, blue, and green light hit the red apple but everything other than red light is absorbed. The red light is reflected into the eye.

Red, blue, and green light hit the red apple but everything other than red light is absorbed. The red light is reflected into the eye.

A black t-shirt isn’t truly black because a small amount of light is reflected back. The blackest thing in the universe is a black hole which absorbs all light. Now it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see a black hole first hand but scientists have made something so close to the blackness of a black hole that they don’t have a way to measure how much light it absorbs.

supermassive-black-hole-x-ray-jet

The closest black hole is several thousand light years away. This picture is likely the closest you’ll ever get to one.

It’s called Vantablack. In 2014 a version was made that absorbs 99.965% of light that hit it but the newest version made just this year absorbs so much light we don’t know how to measure it. The “vanta” in Vantablack is actually an acronym for what it’s made from Vertically Aligned (carbon) Nano Tube Arrays. Light gets captured in the nano tubes so almost none can reflect back.

It's a solid object that looks like a 2D abyss. 14 year old me would be stoked.

It’s a solid object that looks like a 2D abyss. 14 year old me would be stoked.

Vantablack comes in a spray on form but sadly only a specialist can apply it so it likely wont be part of your next art project. They are looking at ways to infuse fabric with Vantablack so our dreams may yet be fufilled. It would look like someone used Photoshop to crop out your torso.

They put it on this mask and it genuinely looks like nothing is there. I want it so bad.

They put it on this mask and it genuinely looks like nothing is there. I want it so bad.

If you have any science questions you want answered just tell me in the comments! Remember. The more you know. The further you’ll go.

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