British engineering firm Surrey NanoSystems is showing off the latest (and blackest) version of what's described as the "world's darkest material," which it calls Vantablack. The material absorbs up to 99.965 percent of incoming radiation, including visible light and other common frequencies like microwaves and radio waves. The result is a black so dark that it's more like a bottomless pit from which no light can emerge.
It works because of the excellent radiation-absorbing qualities of carbon nanotubes; the material is a thick forest of them, into which light and other radiation penetrates easily but can't leave. This is great for keeping stray light away from sensitive instruments like telescopes, or for rendering an aircraft or object invisible to radar. The "vertically aligned nanotube arrays" (hence "vanta") have been around since 2007 but Surrey NanoSystems claims to have improved the creation process, making high temperatures and various side effects of existing manufacture techniques a thing of the past. It won't show up on the catwalk any time soon, but we may see (or rather, not see) military deployment before long.
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— Devin Coldewey, NBC News
First published July 14 2014, 1:25 PM