A team of British researchers has created a record-breaking material, but you might struggle to tell: it's so black that you can barely see it.
The new material, called Vantablack, is a coating made using carbon nanotubes, which absorbs all but 0.035 per cent of visible light. Grown on a sheet of aluminium foil, the coating grabs hold of light and won't let go: photos ping into the gaps between the nanotubes, bounce around within the structure, and are slowly absorbed without ever bouncing back into the air.
In fact it absorbs so much light that even shapes and contours of an object become invisible when it's coated with the stuff. Ben Jensen, the chief technical officer of Surrey NanoSystems which developed the material, explains what you can see when a sheet of material coated in it is crumpled and creased:
"You expect to see the hills and all you can see … it's like black, like a hole, like there's nothing there. It just looks so strange."
But what do you do with something so black? Well, think astronomical cameras, telescopes and infrared scanning systems, where it can be used to calibrate devices – this is, after all, the blackest black thing in existence. It is, however, reported to be "very expensive". Surrey NanoSystems won't say how much, exactly, but goths and French philosophers needn't apply just yet. [Surrey Nanosystems via Independent]