Scientists in England say they've created a new way of synthesising light absorbing material that is so black it only reflects 0.035 percent of light, which could revolutionise satellites and telescopes, and our ability to understand the universe. Joel Flynn looks in.
Scientists in England say they've created a new way of synthesising light absorbing material that is so black it only reflects 0.035 percent of light, which could revolutionise satellites and telescopes, and our ability to understand the universe. Joel Flynn looks in. STORY: When it comes to colour you might think you've seen it all, but this is no ordinary shade of black - it's actually the closest thing on earth to nothing. It's called Vantablack and its British creators think it could change the way we see the universe. It absorbs 99.96 percent of all light - and that's just the light on the electromagnetic spectrum visible to the human eye. Ben Jensen is one of its creators. SOUNDBITE: Surrey Nanosystems Chief Technology Officer, Ben Jensen, saying (English): "'Vanta' is a Vertically Aligned Nano Tube Array, and the black is obviously self-explanatory and that's because the material you can see here is made up from an array of carbon nanotubes. Now carbon nanotubes are a nano-scale material, so to give you an example, the hair on your head, if you took that and split it about eight to ten thousand times, one of those strands would be the size of one of the tubes in the array. So if you think about this like a field of grass that's exceptionally long, and what happens, light particles, for want of a better word, go in and they bounce around in that field of grass and they're absorbed by the material, so very little will come back out." The technology behind carbon nanotubes isn't entirely new, but what Jensen and his team have managed to do is make it usable. They've found a way to bind it to materials like aluminium foil - a material with properties similar to those found in satellites and telescopes. It means that photos taken of the earth and the universe could become much more accurate. SOUNDBITE: Surrey Nanosystems Chief Technology Officer, Ben Jensen, saying (English): If you get stray light - i.e. light from non-target objects - bouncing around inside the telescope it increases the signal to noise ration and you don't get such a sharp image. If you use this type of material inside the telescope coating baffles and aperture plates and things like that, that stray light is reduced and you get a much sharper image." Material can never be 100 percent light absorbant - that would break the laws of physics. That's not stopping Jensen from making one final claim. SOUNDBITE: Surrey Nanosystems Chief Technology Officer, Ben Jensen, saying (English): REPORTER ASKING QUESTION: "This is the closest thing we have to a blackhole on earth, is that right?" JENSES: "Yeah, absolutely, you could say that. The closest thing to a blackhole, I could say, it's a fun comparison." While the technology is still in the process of being licensed, it could herald advances in stealth camouflage and reconaissance photography, along with other applications as yet unknown. Just how big a breakthrough Vantablack really is remains to be seen.