Beyond Black: Scientists Invent the World's Darkest Material

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

An image of Vantablack - the darkest material known to man. (Surrey NanoSystems/Facebook)

Batman, Coco Chanel, and Johnny Cash—they all had a thing for classic black. But the British technology company Surrey Nanosystems has invented a new material that's so strikingly dark, it makes these icons look like they're wearing faded gray.

The material, called Vantablack, will vastly improve astronomical cameras and telescopes for scientists and the military. It's considered the darkest material known to man.

What's really revolutionary about this Vantablack is that it's a color the human eye has never seen before. The "blacker than black" material, which absorbs all but 0.035 percent of visual light, looks more like a black hole on Earth.

Dr. Stephen Westland, a professor of Colour Science at University of Leeds, explains this new technology, and the science behind the color black.

Check out some more photos of Vantablack below.


Dr. Stephen Westland

Produced by:

Allie Ferguson and Kaitlin Roberts


T.J. Raphael

Comments [7]


It hasn't "never been seen before." In cave tours when they turn out the lights, you're often miles from the doors which aren't even open. I'm willing to bet that's darker than a material reflecting .035 percent of light.

Aug. 13 2014 02:23 PM

"Absorbs all but" works equally as well as "reflects only"

Jul. 17 2014 02:42 PM
suzyk from Portland Or

A few years ago I saw a New Yorker cartoon: several very thin, fashionable women at a cocktail party, all wearing black dresses. The observer in the corner says, "They're only wearing black until they find a darker color."

I'd love to see this stuff in person, preferably in a garment. Dr. Westland said someone wearing it would look "like a shadow". Or a void, I think.

Jul. 16 2014 05:24 PM
Mason from Queens, NY

The 'blackest' thing I have ever experienced was Anish Kapoor's Memory exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in 2009. He built an egg shaped vault out of 8 mm thick steel sections. One end of the steel vault was attached to the wall with a square aperture, on the other side of the wall, to look into. The blackness seen (not seen?) when looking deep into the aperture all but sucked you into the void. It was the most beautiful and peaceful thing I have ever experienced in art. If there is something blacker that this, I hope I have the opportunity to experience that too.

Jul. 16 2014 03:45 PM
pablo cruzado from SF

Could this somehow help in the energy efficiency of solar panels?

Jul. 16 2014 03:41 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Vantablack Is The New Black

Jul. 16 2014 01:46 PM

Did you mean reflects only 0.035 percent of visual light?

Jul. 16 2014 11:29 AM

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