MIT scientists reveal new material shown to be the “blackest black” using carbon nanotubes (CNTs)

MIT scientists recently revealed a new material shown to be the “blackest black” using carbon nanotubes (CNTs).

What it is:

These low weight materials exhibit high strength, flexibility as well as high thermal and electrical properties. CNTs have been shown to have a tensile strength greater than 100 times compared with steel materials of the same size. Due to the nature of carbon nanotubes, many uses include EV battery materials, drug delivery, electronic components.

Aside from strength, CNTs also have a unique property of absorbing light, making the material non-reflective. The material and process developed at MIT captured at least 99.995% of incoming light making it the darkest material to date.

To further illustrate the unique material, MIT partnered with artists to make a diamond disappear as part of “The Redemption of Vanity” on display at the NYSE. Diamonds are one of the most reflective materials in existence, and a diamonds “shininess” comes from the materials ability to reflect light.

A $2M 16.78-carat yellow diamond was coated with the MIT material and the result was the illustion that the normally reflective diamond disappeared.

Other uses:

As SUV sales are expected to rise, automakers are looking to stand out from the pack. BMW recently unveiled the 3rdgeneration X6 SUV at the Frankfurt Motor Show which had an unusual look for some. In this one-off prototype, BMW used a CNT material called Vantablack in the automotive exterior paint.  The effect was a vehicle with no reflection defining the parts and contour. The grill, tires and BMW logo appeared to be floating in space.

Why it matters

While CNTs continue to find use due to their high strength/low weight properties, additional applications exist in other areas such as anti-reflective materials. While is it unlikely we will see non-reflective paint on the exterior of cars, BMW has said it plans to research the use of CNTs for interior components which would likely benefit from anti-reflective materials.

The MIT team is still researching the mechanisms of the newly created materials which will lend to more potential applications in the future.

This article was contributed by Maggie Teliska. Teliska leads the stationary sales initiatives for Northeast Battery & Alternator, the largest independent battery distribution company in the Northeast. Before this role, she served as a consultants well as CTO of Regent Power, LLC, a Smart City host integrator. She sits on the board of the Women’s Energy Network Boston Chapter.  Maggie has a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the George Washington University and a BS in Chemistry from Boston College. She lives in Tewskbury, MA with her husband.