What do artists, aerospace manufacturers, casino owners, and celebrities all have in common? Other than generally having a fair amount of cash on hand, they’re all interested in investing that money in a particular new technology-- Vantablack. This new coating by Surrey Nanosystems is catching eyes across industries for being the blackest black the materials and coatings markets have ever seen.
While most black inks and coatings reflect enough light for the eye to distinguish texture and dimension, Vantablack is so black that it renders the object it covers practically 2D to the observer. It would appear that it is the world's darkest coating known to man.
The coating gets it name from its unique make-up-- Vertically Aligned Carbon Nanotube Arrays made of millions of tiny nanotubes (each 10,000x thinner than a human hair). This composition allows the coating to absorb 99.965% of the light that hits it. Trying to picture it? “We think of Vantablack as a forest,” said Director of Business Development Steve Northam in an interview with Buzzfeed. “If you imagine yourself walking through a forest, but instead of being regular trees these are three kilometers tall-- that’s how Vantablack works. It’s very, very long tubes with lots of space between them: so the light enters, bounces off nanotubes, [and] eventually gets absorbed.” A coating that’s practically invisible in the dark, even with a flashlight pointed right at it.
The implications for real-life applications are pretty exciting. The first thing that comes to my mind is full-body ninja suits, but there are certainly more “practical” uses. Northam told CNN: “If you use Vantablack in stray-light reduction applications, your systems can see fainter objects further away. So you improve the sensitivity, and you improve the signal-to-noise ratio in these systems…. In particular, this material is used for calibration systems for space telescopes, to ensure that the system is calibrated correctly against what is effectively the closest thing we can get to a fully-absorbant black body.” While aerospace is making good use of the coating, there is plenty of demand from a variety of interested parties. As alluded to in the first paragraph, everyone from casino owners to celebrities want the coating applied to their gaming dice and their lavish sports cars.
Needless to say, it’ll be interesting to discover where and how we see this unique technology is used next. Even if we don’t see any super-cool Vantablack-ed ninjas running around in the near future (though we can probably safely assume they’ve been rendered even more invisible than usual anyway), the new applications are sure to be innovative and promising.
If you want to know more about the world’s darkest material, visit Surrey Nanosystems’s website or watch the videos we’ve compiled below.
A quick interview by CNN with Steve Northam
This video by BuzzfeedBlue explores more of the science behind Vantablack and includes some helpful visuals, as well as input from several different people involved in the production of the product.
A rather funny look at some people’s reactions to seeing Vantablack in person. “It’s just, like, a rip in space!”
All images sources attributed to: Surrey Nanosystems