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The World’s Blackest Black Created By Scientists, Worn By Snakes

ad_140486938Vantablack. Image: Surrey Nanosystems

Orange isn’t the new black, it’s this strange material developed by British tech company Surrey Nanosystems. It sets a new world record for reflecting the least amount of light of any material ever tested. Less than 0.04 percent of the light that hits this material—dubbed “Vantablack”—reflects off the surface, giving it an almost black hole-like appearance.

surrey-nanosystems-vantablack-very-black-aluminium-foilImage: Surrey Nanosystems

To make something the blackest black, you have to change the actual structure of the surface. Vantablack (“Vertically Aligned Carbon Nanotube Arrays”) is made from millions of carbon nanotubes, each 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, grown on aluminum sheets. The researchers tried growing the material in different orientations, but it all looks unsettlingly the same because the lack of reflected light doesn’t let our brains see the contours.

The nanotubes are packed so tightly together in Vantablack that entering light gets lost inside the miniscule gaps between them, and cannot pass through the tubes themselves. Pack the nanotubes tightly like a bundle of drinking straws and photons can come in but they don’t come out.

carbon-nanotubes-super-black-on-silicon-640x330The structure of Vantablack up close. Image: Surrey Nanosystems

Surrey Nanosystems says in a press release that the first orders for Vantablack have already been made, focusing on the military and space exploration sectors. It would be a huge advantage to telescopes and astronomical cameras, which need absolutely black calibration surfaces with which to compare faint starlight. “[Vantablack] reduces stray-light, improving the ability of sensitive telescopes to see the faintest stars, and allows the use of smaller, lighter sources in space-borne black body calibration systems,” says Chief Technology Officer Ben Jensen.

Maybe the coolest part of this innovation is that nature beat them to it. The Gaboon pit viper—a venomous native to the forests and deserts of Africa—is the heaviest viper, has the largest fangs of any snake, and can impart more venom in a single bite than any other snake. It’s also an absolute master of camouflage. Recent research has found that nanoridges on the black scales of the viper produce the same effect as Vantablack. The snake’s scales aren’t as effective as the new material, reflecting less than 11 percent of the incoming light, but it’s amazing that evolution stumbled onto the same innovation.


In each case, messing with light on scales less than a billionth of a meter makes for a whole new kind of color, something almost unnatural. “These new materials, they are pretty much as black as we can get, almost as close to a black hole as we could imagine,” said Stephen Westland, professor of color science and technology at Leeds University, speaking with The Independent.

HT The Independent

IMAGES: Surrey Nanosystems, Bitis gabonica rhinoceros by TimVickers

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  1. Springboob Squirepants says:


  2. Sarah says:

    Blacker than the blackest black… times infinity.

  3. SomePerson says:

    Yes, like so many ingenious biological systems Evolution….”stumbled into” this amazing concept LOL! Actually it seems like people “stumbled into” the phenomenon. God already had it figured out 😉

    • The realist says:

      Not really!

    • Renando says:

      Actually, I think the word is GODDIDIT, which is the standard explanation for the wonders of nature that people who don’t think very much use.

  4. Duncan says:


  5. N3rdy says:

    Does it make me super girly that I want this in clothes. can you imagine how slimming the blackest black would be? omg twinkies for EVERYONE

    • Rusty says:

      No, it just makes you shallow.

    • Neferius says:

      black is NOT slimming. It actually makes you look larger by blending your contours together and making other people’s brains register you as a dark amorphous blob. zYou want slimming, then wear all whites, pearly-bright brights! ^^

  6. 11% is much larger than .04%.
    This title is highly misleading.

    • Kyle Hill says:

      The amazing bit isn’t how close the two numbers are, it’s that an animal that evolved millions of years before was already using nanostructures to alter light reflectivity. And in almost the same way!

  7. In Gene Wolfe’s book “The Shadow of the Torturer”, Severian wears a cloak of fuligin, the color darker than black. Now we know what it was made of.

  8. It’s like “How much more black could this be?” And the answer is, “None. None more black.”

  9. Tyler Marks says:

    Can I get this as a ninja outfit?

    • Helping says:

      you might wana try navy blue instead if you wear black you can be seen easily at night but you cant see navy blue and thats also what ninjas ligit wore

  10. Todd Haney says:

    We can finally make Hotblack Desiato’s ship! DO IT! DO IT, NOOOWWWW!!!