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"…we store information differently, reading a science fiction story, to make it make sense."
- Samuel R. Delany

Darkness Bomb  
  A small bulb containing a vapor that causes darkness to occur.  

Spencer pulled some thing the size of a hen's egg from his pocket, held it out at arm's length, and dropped it gracefully.

It hit with a dull, hollow plop, and burst into an instant, spreading blackness! In a fraction of a second the room was in utter blackness, a jet night so intense that the powerful glow lamps of the laboratory were utterly lost. There was nothing but a solid, impenetrable wall of blankness.

"Good lord, what is that?" gasped Aarn. "Hey--where in blazes are you? I can't--say, I can't see my hand when it's touching my face. Uh--here's a light now--"

Silence. A chuckle from Spencer. "It won't work--"

"Haw!" Spencer looked at the screen of his heat-eye televisor, and grinned wider.

As though through a slight, bright fog, he could see Aarn, shining brightly, and holding a flash-lamp that was shining equally brightly, but seemed to be curiously affected by the fog. "It's working. It just can't light, can't send a beam. Put it about half an inch from your eye, and you can see it."

Aarn did. "Sweet singing satellites--what a fog that ink makes! What in space is it?"

"Infra-infra-infra fluorescence." Spencer grinned. "And your heat-eye works beautifully. That's what friend Carlisle made for the occasion of our raid. The chemical tanks contain a load of this. It combines with the oxygen of the air to form a chemical dye in particles so tiny they are close to the brownian limits, and won't settle out in less than about three hours under Tell-el's gravity."

"Infra-infra-and so forth. I think I commence to under stand. Will you kindly supply me with one of those heat visors so I can see my way out? What do you do to use it in this?"

"Stick it so close to your eyes, and turn it up so far that you can see it. This fog isn't utterly impenetrable, you know."

"No--but if I am right, it would be darned near it. I take it that this stuff acts the way fluorescence does with ultra violet. It takes ultra-violet, and reduces it to visible light. This takes visible, and reduces it to infra-visible. Right?"

"Quite right. The heat-visor is somewhat obscured, be cause that re-radiation of heat by the little particles of the dye makes a foglike breaking up of the light, and also the heat."

From The Mightiest Machine, by John W. Campbell.
Published by Astounding Science-Fiction in 1934
Additional resources -

Ray Cummings used the same idea in his 1936 story The Blood of the Moon:

He hurled a tiny fragile glass bomb to the deck-grid at his feet; darkness sprang like a shroud, through which Georg fired the flash gun with a succession of stabbing, unaimed bolts...

The spiral to the dome-peak was only a few feet away... They mounted; the lightweight gas of the artificial darkness mounted with them. The turmoil of the deck now showed dimly down below. They reached the platform grid; but the dissipating gas had thinned so that they were discovered.

Thanks to Winchell Chung (aka @Nyrath) of Project Rho for sending this reference!

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Mightiest Machine
  More Ideas and Technology by John W. Campbell
  Tech news articles related to The Mightiest Machine
  Tech news articles related to works by John W. Campbell

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