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Blacker than black, it's gone
February 20, 2008 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Apparently, the new black is... really, really black. "Researchers in New York reported this month that they have created a paper-thin material that absorbs 99.955 percent of the light that hits it, making it by far the darkest substance ever made -- about 30 times as dark as the government's current standard for blackest black." But what possible benefit to society could come from this blacker than black substance? Why, invisibility cloaks, of course!

More on invisibility cloaks

Previously on metafilter
posted by willie11 (53 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
"It's like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black."

I know what my entire wardrobe will be made of in a few years.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:10 AM on February 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'm hoping they will start selling this at Jo-Anne Fabric store near where I live so I can make a bodysuit out of it and go around terrifying children.
posted by The Loch Ness Monster at 9:14 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fuligin?
posted by deCadmus at 9:17 AM on February 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


As if The Loch Ness Monster weren't scary enough aready.
posted by itchylick at 9:17 AM on February 20, 2008


I put on the cloak... the hue fuligin, which is darker than black, admirably erases all folds, bunchings and gatherings so far as the eye is concerned, showing only a featureless dark.
-Gene Wolfe, Shadow of the Torturer
posted by Iridic at 9:18 AM on February 20, 2008


Isn't that this substance?
posted by stopgap at 9:18 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


er, wasn't.
posted by itchylick at 9:18 AM on February 20, 2008


The goth community just had an orgasm.
posted by HuronBob at 9:18 AM on February 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


Heh - beaten to the fuligin reference.

Relevant thought, though - if light is "absorbed" (or trapped without escape, which seems tantamount to the same thing) into these nano-fibres, what happens to it? Where does the energy go? Does the cloak get hotter, or does it have a "dump patch" where all of the photons are channeled?
posted by Chunder at 9:32 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is it wrong that I immediately thought of fuligin too? Now someone just has to develop this as a textile so I can get a bitchin' Autarch cape. Needs some whiter than white too. Tangentially: in comparison Wolfe's descriptive capabilities don't seem much better than the guys from Spinal Tap. ;_;

*starts singing... badly*
I'm black y'all, and I'm black y'all, and I'm blacker than black, and I'm black y'all.

I'm blickedy black blacker than black, black I'm blacker than black, yo! Because I'm black and I'm BACK!
posted by CheshireCat at 9:38 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


now lets build a spaceship out of it and throw it into the sun.
posted by Mach5 at 9:38 AM on February 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


Much love for the Wolfe. I kind of always thought fuligin was able to be blacker than black because the sun had changed and so the hues were different...or something.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:46 AM on February 20, 2008


Attenuation is hot.
posted by furtive at 9:51 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


"It's so ... black!'' said Ford Prefect, "You can hardly make out its shape... light just seems to fall into it!''

Zaphod said nothing. He had simply fallen in love.

The blackness of it was so extreme that it was almost impossible to tell how close you were standing to it.

"Your eyes just slide off it...'' said Ford in wonder. It was an emotional moment. He bit his lip.

Zaphod moved forward to it, slowly, like a man possessed --- or more accurately like a man who wanted to possess.

posted by Rhaomi at 9:52 AM on February 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


OK, I get to say this first: You claim it's black. But is it black enough?
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:52 AM on February 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


This blackness, it dissipates?
posted by blue_beetle at 10:00 AM on February 20, 2008


I wonder if it could be used to make hyper-efficient solar-powered water heaters?

Use this to convert solar energy into heat, collect it in a heat sink, and run stirling engines?
posted by porpoise at 10:11 AM on February 20, 2008


Chunder: I reckon its blackness means it will just exchange heat energy with its surroundings very well - so it will heat up in light, and cool down in shade.
posted by anthill at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2008


Silly tech column writers. Your average invisibility cloak experiences wear and tear. Harry Potter's doesn't.

So does this mean that somewhere, another spy agency is secretly preparing a device to detect the absorption of light? Or maybe there is one already. But it needs to be capable of being cleverly disguised as a lighter.
posted by Tehanu at 10:15 AM on February 20, 2008


Al Sharpton says this new material isn't black enough for him to endorse it for president.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:22 AM on February 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


So does this mean that somewhere, another spy agency is secretly preparing a device to detect the absorption of light? Or maybe there is one already. But it needs to be capable of being cleverly disguised as a lighter.

Ooooh. And we can call it... a flashlight.
posted by deCadmus at 10:24 AM on February 20, 2008


Isn't that this substance?

Yep. One of those articles got the researcher's name wrong, though. It's either Pulickel Ajayan or Rulickel Ajayan. Google says Pulickel.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:35 AM on February 20, 2008


Relevant thought, though - if light is "absorbed" (or trapped without escape, which seems tantamount to the same thing) into these nano-fibres, what happens to it? Where does the energy go? Does the cloak get hotter, or does it have a "dump patch" where all of the photons are channeled?

The cloak explodes after a couple of months.
posted by 1 at 10:48 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I forsee a large market in lint rollers for these cloaks.
posted by Standeck at 10:51 AM on February 20, 2008


I am so using this to make a bra for my Lamborghini.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:05 AM on February 20, 2008


Blacker than the blackest black... times infinity!

I looked so hard for the clip
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:09 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Puns aside, this is really an incredible advancement. It's one of those "little" achievements that you don't often think about like, say, Vulcanization, but has massive applications for our daily lives. 50 years from now, kids in 5th grade will be watching boring edu-tainment videos called "Carbon Nanotubes and You!" and taking their invisible space elevators for granted.
posted by Avenger at 11:09 AM on February 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


if light is "absorbed" into these nano-fibres, what happens to it?
Obviously, the cloak gains mass as it's exposed to light, which only helps make it more absorbent. Eventually, it will become dense enough to be classified as a black hole, but by then we'll have passed through it to the other side.
posted by Crash at 11:11 AM on February 20, 2008


To be honest what made me happiest about this article was not that the development of this stuff kicks ass, but that the Washington Post just used 'smidgeon' in all seriousness.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:19 AM on February 20, 2008


The black is black is black is black is black is dark. It makes it hard to see...the tents.
posted by unknowncommand at 11:21 AM on February 20, 2008


Ooooh. And we can call it... a flashlight.

Wouldn't the very very blackness just absorb that, though?
posted by Tehanu at 11:46 AM on February 20, 2008


Now I'll never find my keys.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:47 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


As my Russian teacher used to say when he wanted the lights out for a slide show:
"Turn on the darkness!"
posted by bigskyguy at 12:03 PM on February 20, 2008


Dang, that's so black, it'll go to night school, and the teacher will mark it absent.
posted by John of Michigan at 12:39 PM on February 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


The most interesting thing about this discovery is all the fun little things creative people are bound to use it for.
posted by flippant at 12:56 PM on February 20, 2008


What will be kickass is if you can see the light bending into it.
posted by cashman at 1:07 PM on February 20, 2008


John of Michigan, I know people often say that a comment made them spit their coffee all over their computer screen; usually it's just a dramatic device, and I'm very skeptical that it actually happened. So, I won't say that I spit coffee onto my screen.

I spit it back into my mug.

Bravo.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 1:18 PM on February 20, 2008


|m|/ \|m|
posted by [son] QUAALUDE at 1:36 PM on February 20, 2008


about 30 times as dark as the government's current standard for blackest black

I looked in vain through the story for an explanation of this claim, which is being repeated in pretty much the same terms wherever this story is traveling. If something is pitch black, as the "government's standard for the blackest black" must be, this stuff can't be described as "30 times as dark". If you put them side by side, you might say, this one's a teeny bit darker than that one, but you would not say it's 30 times as dark.

The right terminology would be to say that the government's standard material reflects 30 times more light than the new stuff, or the new stuff reflects only 1/30th as much light as the standard.
posted by beagle at 1:53 PM on February 20, 2008


ooh, slimming!
posted by krix at 1:55 PM on February 20, 2008


It may be invisible to the other man, but not useful for stealth, because it gets down with it’s bad self and says it loud.
posted by HVAC Guerilla at 2:00 PM on February 20, 2008


Ninja! Also, muggers and stranger rapists.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:10 PM on February 20, 2008


You forgot the soundtrack.

Or the get off my lawn! version
posted by ersatz at 3:33 PM on February 20, 2008


fu'kin metal!
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 3:53 PM on February 20, 2008


But what possible benefit to society could come from this blacker than black substance?

Album covers for Spinal Tap?
posted by jonp72 at 4:07 PM on February 20, 2008


How long until I can coat the inside of my telescope in this?
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:20 PM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll believe it when I see it.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:11 PM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


(Sorry, but someone had to.)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:11 PM on February 20, 2008


Is this something I would need an event horizon to understand?
posted by tzikeh at 6:58 PM on February 20, 2008


You could make a robe out of it, and no one would see anything but your floating head at night. Especially cool if you shown a flashlight onto your head, as there would be no reflection off your upper chest, and the increase in contrast would take away from the utter absence of light where your body would otherwise be.
posted by parallax7d at 7:36 PM on February 20, 2008


If you put them side by side, you might say, this one's a teeny bit darker than that one, but you would not say it's 30 times as dark.

In the picture I saw comparing the two, the old black was very clearly not really black. Far more than "a teeny bit darker", fersure.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:48 PM on February 20, 2008


In the picture I saw comparing the two, the old black was very clearly not really black. Far more than "a teeny bit darker", fersure.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:48 PM on February 20 [+] [!]



o hai, I can has links plz?
posted by [son] QUAALUDE at 10:35 PM on February 20, 2008


Awwwwwww I'm black y'all, and I'm black y'all, and I'm blacker than black, and I'm black y'all.
I'm blickedy black blacker than black, black I'm blacker than black, yo! Because I'm black and I'm BACK!

Yo, I'm black and I'm black, y'all, and I'm blacker than black and I'm black y'all. I'm black black black black black black black black black and I'm black, and I'm black because I'm BACK!

*now sees CheshireCat's comment, clicks "post" anyway*
posted by hellbient at 9:24 AM on February 21, 2008


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