A new shade of black has been discovered, but don’t expect it to show up in the next set of Crayola® crayons. This black is touted as the blackest black. Unlike other colors, this hue is engineered and must be grown from carbon nanotubes. These tubes, which are smaller than strands of human hair, are responsible for soaking up nearly 100 percent of the light that hits them.
Before revealing the man who is responsible for uncovering the shade that is blacker-than-black, let’s discuss the often overlooked relationship between light and color.
The Relationship Between Light and Color
It is shocking to learn that color, as we see it, is not color at all. Items that appear colorful are only perceived this way if white light is present. In order for the human eye to see color, objects must reflect light, absorbing certain waves and resisting others. Depending on what waves are absorbed and rejected, we get particular color. For instance, when light hits an orange, it absorbs all colors of the spectrum except for orange.
At early ages, children learn that black is not a color. This is because black does not need light, like other colors do. Whenever a “black” product is created, like a black crayon or paint, it is always the goal to have it reflect as little light as possible. But not all light can be absorbed.
Even Frederik de Wilde’s blackest black only absorbs 99 percent of light. But this is more than was ever expected or thought possible.
Fathering the World’s Blackest Shade of Black
Frederik de Wilde is an artist and scientist who is dedicated to discovering the darkest shade of black. Some call the hue, “NASA black,” because he partnered with NASA and a team from Rice University to nano-engineer this “color.”
Of his findings, De Wilde says, “Blacker-than-black is necessarily something which exceeds the luminous phenomenon.” Made up of 99.9 percent air and .01 percent carbon, blacker-than-black is what people see when they are essentially looking at nothing. Throughout the research process, as he and the team aimed for a nano-engineering phenomenon, de Wilde realized the process of creating the world’s blackest shade of black was going “beyond zero.” It was doing something that people once thought impossible.
Now that this shade has become a reality, there is much discussion about how it can and will be used.
The Future of Blacker-than-black
NASA is excited about the potential this shade of black offers to “creating hyper-efficient renewable energy.” A Huffington post article elaborates, saying NASA thinks this may lead to the development of invisible technology and may enable telescopes to pier deeper into space.
De Wilde also sees blacker-than-black as having “limitless potential” in the art world, too. He nano-engineers paintings and sculptures with material so black that it seems as if volume vanishes.
The creative, practical and sustainable functions of the world’s blackest shade of black are unique. Not only does it absorb more light than any other color, it is also a breakthrough in areas of art and science. This is a big accomplishment for something that is made of nothing.
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