22/11/2011 14:01 GMT | Updated 22/01/2012 10:12 GMT

Invisible Paint? Carbon Nanotube Coating Renders Objects Almost Imposible To See

'Invisible paint' is usually just something used to confuse young boy scouts - as in, "go and paint that fence with...".

But now it appears invisible paint is closer to reality than you might think.

Using a coating of carbon nanotubes scientists have been able to render objects nearly invisible.

Nanotubes, described as "tiny cylinders composed of one-atom-thick carbon lattices" by the journal Applied Physics Letters in which the research will appear, are amazing things.

Incredibly durable, strong and light, they have been proposed as building materials for, among other things space elevators and skin sensors

The team from the University of Michigan created "forests" of the tubes, which when applied to objects totally absorbed visible light.

The result is that the object is rendered completely black and appears flat, like a two-dimensional object. There is no distortion in the light, apparently because the "refractive index" of carbon nanotubes is so similar to air.

To demonstrate the effect the scientists made a tank out of silicon, applied the 'paint' and the light was "soaked up... revealing nothing more than a black sheet".

The experiment, which will be documented soon in Applied Physics Letters, is illustrated in the picture above.

The top line is the procedure as it appears under an electron microscope, and the bottom line is the experiment in visible light. In both caes it is clear that the object is completely invisible after being applied with the technology.