Move over, Vantablack, MIT has made the blackest black

MIT black
(Image credit: MIT News)

We're not sure what's going on with the colour (depending on who you ask) black at the moment, but it seems, for some reason, everyone is out to create the blackest black. Just a few weeks ago, we reported BMW's new X6 coupé has been spray-painted with a version of Surrey NanoSystems self-described "blackest black in the world", Vantablack, and now MIT are in on the action too. 

According to a recent blog post, MIT engineers have now created the blackest black ever recorded. The institute's ultrablack material is capable of absorbing at least 99.995 per cent of light, beating the previous pretender to the throne, Vantablack, which only had a 99.965 per cent absorption rate.

If you've read our guide to colour theory, you'll know that pigments can trick our perceptions. Artist Diemut Strebe has done just that with his new art exhibit, The Redemption of Vanity, which features a 16.78-carat diamond coated in MIT's dark material.

Created in partnership with Brian Wardle, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, and his group, and MIT Center for Art, Science, and Technology, the installation sees the normally brilliant gem disappear against a black background. Take a look at how it seems to vanish in the comparison image above.

Our material is 10 times blacker than anything that’s ever been reported

Brian Wardle

The MIT blog post reveals the new levels of blackness were achieved with the help of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes, or CNTs for short. These CNTs are microscopic filaments of carbon, kind of like a tiny forest of fuzzy trees. By growing them on a surface of chlorine-etched aluminium foil, MIT engineers were able to create what the blog post describes as "the blackest material on record."

In the blog post Wardle explains: "our material is 10 times blacker than anything that’s ever been reported, but 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."

While this is a great achievement for MIT, it's sure to frustrate Anish Kapoor. The artist holds exclusive usage rights for the extremely black paint, Vantablack, which prompted artists to create their own alternative on Kickstarter.

A seemingly never-ending competition, we wonder who'll be the next to come up with the world's blackest black?

Related articles:

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Dom Carter

Dom Carter is a freelance writer who specialises in art and design. Formerly a staff writer for Creative Bloq, his work has also appeared on Creative Boom and in the pages of ImagineFX, Computer Arts, 3D World, and .net. He has been a D&AD New Blood judge, and has a particular interest in picture books.