It is a well known fact that we see things in different colors because they reflect different parts of visible spectrum. A red object appears red only because its material is reflecting the red light and absorbing all other colors. When an object absorbs the entire visible spectrum, and does not reflect any visible light towards our eye, it appears black to us. Most of the black colored objects still reflect some light and therefore they are not perfect black. This gives rise to the question — what is the most black thing? Or which material is the blackest black?
MIT’s Nearly Perfect Black
On 12 September 2019, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s engineers reported that they have developed a material that can absorb 99.995% visible light. This yet-to-be-named material was created using vertically aligned carbon nanotubes. Beating Vantablack, the MIT’s material is now the blackest, darkest material on record.
The following image shows a sparkling yellow diamond covered with the most black material from MIT. As you can see, the black coat has absorbed all the light and the diamond isn’t able to reflect anything back.
“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.”, said Brian Wardle, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT.
Vantablack: The Blackest Black
Vantablack is a synthetic material that absorbs 99.965% of visible light falling on it. This property makes Vantablack as one of the darkest material known to mankind. Surrey NanoSystems in the United Kingdom developed Vantablack.
The name “Vantablack” consists an acronym VANTA (vertically aligned nanotube arrays) and the color black.
Vantablack was developed using nanotubes and it can be created at a temperature of 400 °C (752 °F), much lower temperature than often used in such process. The following image shows a BMW car painted with Vantablack. You can really feel the blackness of this black. There is absolutely no reflection from the areas covered with Vantablack.
Black hole: The Perfect Black
A black hole is certainly the blackest “thing” or “place” that can exist. This is simply because of the fact that no light can escape the gravitation pull coming from a black hole. Consequently, there is no question of light reflecting back to us. A black hole does not absorb the light rather it grabs it in totality. So, if you want to look at the blackest thing in the universe, you would need to look at a black hole.
But how would you see a black hole if there is no light coming back from it? In truth, we cannot “see” a black hole. We can only sense it’s presence from the aura of light that surrounds its event horizon. Once the light goes past the event horizon, there is no escape for it. The following image shows the only photograph of a black hole mankind has taken so far.
This photograph of the black hole may not appear as black as you might have expected or as black as the sleek BMW Vantablack looks, but the thing at the center of this image is certainly the blackest thing in the universe. The light and the glow you see in this image is not coming from the black hole — actually there is a lot of light between your eyes and the black hole in this picture. This light is creating an illusion as though the black hole is not black, let alone blackest, but it’s rather something dark brown.
What you’re looking at is neither the size of a BMW nor it is a few feet away from us. This black hole is located at the core of Messier 87 galaxy, which is 53 million light-years away from the Earth. This is the reason why this black hole does not appear as black as Vantablack.
The quest to develop a perfect black material is still underway. Let’s see who and when someone will surpass MIT’s blackest black!