You can't see it, or figure out its shape: Is this the real new black?

Is this the world's darkest material?
Is this the world's darkest material?

    JUST WATCHED

    Is this the world's darkest material?

MUST WATCH

Is this the world's darkest material? 01:41

Story highlights

  • A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material
  • Vantablack is designed by Surrey NanoSystems and absorbs 99.96% of all light that hits it
  • It's designed to help air-borne cameras and infrared scanning systems work more efficiently

Forget the new black. This is the real black.

A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material. It is so dark the human eye can't discern its shape and form, creating what has been called a black hole.

Vantablack, made out of carbon nanotubes, is designed by Surrey NanoSystems and absorbs 99.96% of all light that hits it. Conventional black, such as black paint or fabric, absorbs between 95% and 98% of light.

The company says Vantablack was the darkest material ever tested by the National Physical Laboratory in the UK, as well as the Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S.

The material is made up of millions of carbon nanotubes, each measuring two or three nanometers -- or roughly one millionth of a millimeter. It is grown on aluminium foil.

Airbus debuts upgraded plane
Airbus debuts upgraded plane

    JUST WATCHED

    Airbus debuts upgraded plane

MUST WATCH

Airbus debuts upgraded plane 03:58
PLAY VIDEO

Creases and bumps on the foil are easily picked up by the human eye. But once covered with Vantablack, all wrinkles and roughness seem to disappear.

Britain enters the spaceport race
Britain enters the spaceport race

    JUST WATCHED

    Britain enters the spaceport race

MUST WATCH

Britain enters the spaceport race 02:09
PLAY VIDEO

"Some people describe it as a hole, because there is literally not enough light coming from the surface to allow the eye to discern the contours that are in that foil," Surrey NanoSystem's Steve Northam told CNN.

Sound like the ultimate slimming little black dress? Actually, no. A Vantablack dress would render the curves and contours of the human body invisible and cause "the wearer to look like a two-dimensional cardboard cut out," Northam said.

Instead, the material is designed to help air-borne cameras, telescopes and infrared scanning systems work more efficiently by reducing stray light. Military clients are lining up to buy it, as is the space industry.

The benefits, Northam said, are that "your systems can see fainter objects further away, you improve the sensitivity and you improve the signal to noise ratio in these systems."

The material, whose development was backed by the UK's Technology Strategy Board, was launched at this year's Farnborough Airshow in southern England. According to Ben Jensen, chief technology officer of Surrey NanoSystems, it was a "major breakthrough by UK industry in the application of nanotechnology to optical instrumentation."

So far, Surrey NanoSystems has only grown Vantablack on foil. It plans to grow it different materials and on three dimensional shapes.

Read more: Britain's spaceport ambitions revealed
Farnborough Airshow: Airbus unveils revamped A330 airliner

        The Business View

      • Nina dos Santos

        Insight from Nina dos Santos

        Nina dos Santos is a news anchor and correspondent based in London. She is the host of CNN International's show The Business View.
      • An Iraqi worker adjusts a control valve at the Daura oil refinery on November 5, 2009 in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq and a grouping of U.S and European oil companies Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell PLC signed a $50 billion contract today to develop the West Qurna oilfield, two days after the Iraqi South Oil Company signed a technical service contract with Britain's BP and China's CNPC to develop the Rumaila oilfield. The Iraqi government is trying to attract foreign investment, especially in the oil sector, in hopes of reviving its war-torn economy. Iraq has the third largest oil reserve in the world but it is producing way below its potential. (Photo by Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty Images)

        Why are Iraq oil markets stable?

        Usually, airstrikes, rebels seizing control of oil fields and refineries, plus a severe refugee crisis are a recipe for market panic. So why are Iraq oil prices stable?
      • A Russian woman shops at a supermarket in Saint Petersburg on August 7, 2014. Russia retaliated against tough new Western sanctions, banning most food imports from the United States and the European Union and threatening to block flights over its airspace. The tit-for-tat moves further heighten tensions between Russia and the West over the conflict in Ukraine, where heavy shelling was reported in the rebel-held eastern city of Donetsk. AFP PHOTO / OLGA MALTSEVA (Photo credit should read OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)

        Russia's ban hits Europe

        Europe's deteriorating relationship with Russia has hit the region's growth, even before new food sanctions begin to bite.
      • Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, on July 24, 2014.

        Europeans left with sour taste

        Russia's beef with the west has escalated after the country banned foods from a host of Western nations including the U.S., Australia, Canada and those of the European Union.
      • German Chancellor Angela Merkel (top R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin chat as Ali Bongo Ondimba (bottom L) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban look on during the second half of the 2014 FIFA World Cup final football match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014.

        To punish Russia, Europe must hurt

        For months, the West has struggled to take a strong stand against Russia for its incursion into Ukraine. Now, its facing the reality that it will need to suffer too.
      • Colin MacDonald Provan walks his dog Colleen down Glasgow High Street past a Yes referendum campaign billboard On May 20, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.

        Scotland, England: Better together?

        Are Scotland and England better together or apart? Nina dos Santos explores the long relationship ahead of Scotland's vote for independence.
      • Newly elected Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves at supporters from the balcony of the AKP party headquarters during the celebrations of his victory in the presidential election vote in Ankara on August 10, 2014.

        Erdogan: PM to president

        Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made history as the country's first directly elected president but his ambitious economic plans could be scuttled by the region's volatile geopolitics.
      • Supporters of the Turkish Prime Minister and Presidential candidate wave Turkish flags during a rally on August 3, 2014 in Istanbul. Tens of thousands of supporters of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on August 3 massed in Istanbul for his last big rally in Turkey's largest city one week ahead of presidential elections. AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

        Turkey's economic fall

        Turkey's economy, fattened with foreign investment during its boom-times, has stalled amid warnings its model is unsustainable.
      • People hold Ukrainain flags and placards reading 'We request the breach of the Mistral contract' (C) and 'No to the Mistral contract' as they demonstrate in front of the French built Vladivostok warship to be sold to Russia, on June 1, 2014 in Saint-Nazaire, western France. The demonstrators protested against the sale of the Vladivostok and Sevastopol warships, two Mistral class LHD amphibious vessels ordered by Russia to the STX France shipyard located in Saint-Nazaire. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD (Photo credit should read JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images)

        Inside Europe's arms trade with Russia

        The West has slapped stringent sanctions on Russia in response to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. But is it still doing trade with Russia in weapons?
      • Vantablack designed by Surrey NanoSystems absorbs 99.96% of all light. It however will not be the solution to the creating the world's ultimate slimming black dress! A dress made out of this material would render the curves and contours of the human body invisible and would leave the wearer looking like 'two dimensional cardboard cut-out.'

        Is this the real new black?

        Forget the new black. This is the real black. You can't see it, or figure out its shape, it's the darkest material in the world.
      • Move over Siri, Jibo is coming

        Jibo robot is designed to be an organizer, educator and assist family members. CNN's Maggie Lake met him and says she was impressed with his skills.
      • An Iraqi worker adjusts a control valve at the Daura oil refinery on November 5, 2009 in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq and a grouping of U.S and European oil companies Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell PLC signed a $50 billion contract today to develop the West Qurna oilfield, two days after the Iraqi South Oil Company signed a technical service contract with Britain's BP and China's CNPC to develop the Rumaila oilfield. The Iraqi government is trying to attract foreign investment, especially in the oil sector, in hopes of reviving its war-torn economy. Iraq has the third largest oil reserve in the world but it is producing way below its potential. (Photo by Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty Images)

        Where is Iraq's oil?

        Iraq produces 3.3 million barrels per day and has the world's fourth-largest oil reserves. But the current crisis is putting all this in danger.
      • Valves of gas pipe-line are seen in the gas station not far from Kiev on March 4, 2014. The European Union will help Ukraine pay the $2.0 billion it owes to Russian gas giant Gazprom, a top official said Tuesday, as part of an aid package reportedly worth more than one billion euros. AFP PHOTO/ ANDREY SINITSIN (Photo credit should read ANDREY SINITSIN/AFP/Getty Images)

        Why Europe needs Russian gas

        The gas standoff between Russia and Ukraine could have a knock-on effect on Europe. Explore this map to find out why is the EU nervous.