Engineers at MIT have announced that they have cooked up a material that is blacker than anything that has been previously reported. The material is said to be the “blackest black” that has been made so far. MIT’s invention is ten times blacker than anything previously recorded.
The material is made from aligned carbon nanotubes or CNTs. A CNT is a microscopic filament of carbon that was grown on a surface of chlorine-etched aluminum foil. The team says that the foil can capture at least 99.995% of any incoming light. The new material is being shown off as part of a new art exhibit at the NYSE called “The Redemption of Vanity.”
The art is a collaboration between Brian Wardle, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT and the MIT Center for Art, Science, and Technology artist-in-residence Diemut Strebe. The exhibit features a 16.78-carat natural yellow diamond from LJ West Diamonds that is estimated to be worth $2 million. The team coated the diamond with the ultra-black CNT material.
The gem turns from its typical brilliant yellow look to a flat black void. The new material has uses other than artistic statements. The material could be used in optical blinders that reduce unwanted glare to help space telescopes to spot orbiting exoplanets. Like many scientific advancements, this one was an accident.
Scientists on the project were experimenting with ways to grow carbon nanotubes on electrically conducting material, like aluminum, to boost thermal and electrical properties. The team was looking for ways to remove the oxide layer on the aluminum, and that led to the discovery that chloride could dissolve the oxide layer. Once the oxide layer was removed from the foil, the CNTs grew on the material at temperatures much lower than normal and produced the extremely black material.
Image credit: Diemut Strebe