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  • Believe it or not, this is a diamond.

  • And the reason you can't see it

  • is because it's covered with the darkest color on Earth.

  • In fact, this material is so dark

  • that it captures at least 99.995% of incoming visible light.

  • But why is it covering a $2 million diamond?

  • And how was it made in the first place?

  • You may remember this color, Vantablack.

  • It was unveiled in 2014,

  • and media outlets called it the darkest color in the world.

  • But this color here?

  • It's not Vantablack.

  • It's even blacker.

  • And that's thanks to an unprecedented collaboration

  • between science and art.

  • It all traces back to this artist,

  • Diemut Strebe.

  • In 2014, she set out on a mission

  • to find the blackest black.

  • Her goal was to make a diamond disappear.

  • Diemut Strebe: This project explores

  • how values attach to concepts and objects

  • in reference to luxury and art and society.

  • Narrator: Meanwhile,

  • a scientist named Brian Wardle

  • was on a totally different mission.

  • He was working with a material called carbon nanotubes,

  • the same stuff used to make Vantablack,

  • though he was using them

  • to boost the thermal and electrical properties

  • of materials like aluminum.

  • But little did Wardle know,

  • he was producing something even darker than Vantablack.

  • Strebe: Brian was looking into the optical properties

  • of CNTs only because of the art project.

  • And so it kind of caused, really, from this art project,

  • the research to find the blackest black.

  • Narrator: The new material, which Wardle has yet to name,

  • is 10 times blacker than any other color ever reported.

  • And that likely has to do

  • with the structure of those nanotubes themselves.

  • In this case, Wardle and his team

  • grew them on top of aluminum.

  • Yeah.

  • They may not be alive,

  • but you can actually grow carbon nanotubes.

  • First, you cover a material

  • with microscopic metal particles.

  • Then you bake it at high temperatures,

  • in the presence of a hydrocarbon gas.

  • And that's basically it.

  • Carbon nanotubes

  • will sprout out of those metallic particles,

  • like plants from seeds.

  • Brian Wardle: You do it in the way we've done it here,

  • you get the recipe right, you can create forests.

  • These are very, very long aspect ratios of, like, a million.

  • Right, the length of the tube is, like, a million,

  • relative to the diameter.

  • And that grows into what's called a forest.

  • Narrator: That nanotube forest

  • is the key to creating this black color.

  • When particles of light, called photons, enter it,

  • nearly all of them get trapped and then dissipate as heat.

  • That's why when you look at this black,

  • you see, well, absolutely nothing.

  • No shadows, no ridges, just black.

  • And that made it perfect

  • for Strebe's diamond-vanishing project.

  • In fact, Wardle's team followed the exact same procedure

  • to grow those nanotubes directly onto a diamond.

  • And that's pretty wild when you consider this:

  • Strebe: Both is made of carbon.

  • It's the same element,

  • just the different atomic letter structure,

  • makes them so extreme opposite in the phenomenology,

  • in their appearance.

  • Narrator: And as it turns out,

  • this material isn't just useful

  • for multimillion-dollar art projects.

  • Scientists can also use it

  • to reduce the glare in optical sensors,

  • such as for telescopes

  • that explore distant objects in space.

  • Wardle: You know, if you have a material

  • that can absorb the stray starlight,

  • then you can look further,

  • and/or look in more detail, at objects such as exoplanets.

  • Narrator: But here's the thing.

  • As cool as this color is,

  • it likely won't be the darkest for long.

  • Because even an absorption rate this high

  • still leaves some room for improvement.

  • So keep your eyes peeled

  • for the next color that you can't see.

Believe it or not, this is a diamond.

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B1 INT US diamond color narrator material carbon art

The Surprising Origin Of A Color Darker Than Vantablack

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