The “world’s most brilliant” material being covered with the ultrablack material for an art exhibit at the New York Stock Exchange. Image via R. Capanna, A. Berlato, and A. Pinato / MIT
Anish Kapoor provoked the art world when he obtained all rights to ‘Vantablack’, the world’s blackest black pigment that traps most light, in 2016. Thankfully, those drawn to the enigmatic shade can revel in its shadow for a bit; there’s an open-source version created as an F-you to Kapoor, and recently, BMW unveiled a car painted with an extension of ‘Vantablack’.
More good news: the blackest black might be more accessible soon. In fact, it’s even darker than the pigment that Kapoor has been keeping so close to his chest. Engineers at MIT have invented a material that purportedly reflects “10 times less light than all other superblack materials,” ‘Vantablack’ included.
The team developed the material from vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes, which are carbon filaments that are microscopic in size. Akin to a “fuzzy forest of tiny trees,” the material was cultivated on a surface of chlorine-etched aluminium foil.
While ‘Vantablack’, the previous record-holder for the “blackest black” in the world, is able to capture 99.965-percent of light, the new material—which doesn’t have a cool name yet—is able to absorb “at least” 99.995-percent of incoming light.
Brian Wardle, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, described in a blog post that while the material is currently “10 times blacker” than other ultrablack pigments, “I think the blackest black is a constantly moving target. Someone will find a blacker material, and eventually we’ll understand all the underlying mechanisms, and will be able to properly engineer the ultimate black.”
The material, thankfully, isn’t as exclusive as ‘Vantablack’, at least in the research community. MIT has provided a sample to astrophysicist and Nobel laureate John Mather, who is working on a black shade to block stray light from interfering with telescope lenses.
Those in New York can also have a glimpse of the black material at the New York Stock Exchange, where The Redemption of Vanity art exhibit is being displayed. The show is a collaboration between Diemut Strebe, artist-in-residence at MIT Center for Art, Science, and Technology, and the MIT engineers who developed the material.
The exhibit showcases a US$2 million 16.78 carat yellow diamond—the “most brilliant material on earth”—being coated in the superblack material and therefore losing its sheen, making it seem as though the gem has disappeared.