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Science and Art: From brightest to blackest carbon

What do you get when you coat a $2 million fancy yellow diamond with carbon nanotubes which absorb more than 99.96% of all light?

Brightest to blackest carbon

Conceived by artist Diemut Strebe and titled “The Redemption of Vanity,” the disappearing diamond is a 16.87 carat natural Fancy Vivid Yellow SI1 Radiant shape from color diamond specialist L.J. West Diamonds Inc. of New York. The patented carbon nanotube technology (CNT) was developed by Professor Wardle and his necstlab lab at MIT, absorbs more than 99.96% of light and is the blackest material in existence. The New York Times covered this groundbreaking discovery in detail. This marriage of science and art was displayed at the New York Stock Exchange near the end of 2019.

Photo credit: The Redemption of

Strebe describes the vivid transformation.

Any object covered with this CNT material loses all its plasticity and appears entirely flat, abbreviated/reduced to a black silhouette. In outright contradiction to this we see that a diamond, while made of the very same element (carbon) performs the most intense reflection of light on earth. Because of the extremely high light absorbtive qualities of the CNTs, any object, in this case a large diamond coated with CNT’s, becomes a kind of black hole absent of shadows.

Strebe, a German artist who has spent her career mixing science and art, next describes the inspiration for the transition of a beautiful diamond from its pinnacle of brightness to absolute darkness:

The project explores material and immaterial value attached to objects aScience!nd concepts in reference to luxury, society and to art. We are presenting the literal devaluation of a diamond, which is highly symbolic and of high economic value. It presents a challenge to art market mechanisms on the one hand, while expressing at the same time questions of the value of art in a broader way. In this sense it manifests an inquiry into the significance of the value of objects of art and the art market.

Full video

To learn more about this marriage of art and science, check out this 4-minute video covering The Redemption of Vanity, Strebe and Wardle from Business Insider’s Amber Bragdon and Benji Jones.

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