The darkest material on earth
Imagine the darkest-dark that you could think of… absolute pitch black where nothing is distinguishable by sight. What if this pure absence of light could be applied to an object? With Vantablack, this seemingly impossible idea becomes reality.
Vantablack is a super-black coating that currently holds the record for the world’s darkest man-made substance.
The material, made by Surrey NanoSystems, was designed to reduce unwanted stray light within the range of the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared spectrum.
Vantablack is so dark that when a three-dimensional object is coated in Vantablack, it appears to become two-dimensional. The super-dark nature of the material makes the object’s surface features indiscernible.
Vantablack has applications in a variety of industries and technologies. For example, the material has been used in high-performance infrared cameras, sensors, scientific instruments, and satellite-borne calibration sources.
The material has even been used in a luxury setting on the face of a limited $95,000 watch made by Swiss watchmaker MCT.
Vantablack absorbs virtually all light – in addition to absorbing light visible to the human eye, the technology also absorbs an entire range of the spectrum invisible to our eyes. The material even reflects so little light that many describe it as the closest thing to a black hole that humans will ever see.
Contrary to what one might think when first seeing Vantablack, it is not a fabric, paint, or pigment.
It is actually made of millions and millions of microscopic tubes made of carbon. According to Surrey NanoSystems, the carbon nanotubes used in Vantablack have a diameter of about 20 nanometers – this is roughly 3,500 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.
To put it into perspective, a 1 square centimeter surface would contain about 1,000 million nanotubes.
When looking at photos and videos of objects treated in the material, one cannot help but want to touch and examine a Vantablack coated object. Unfortunately, surfaces coated in Vantablack are not intended to be touched. Due to the fragility of the coating, any abrasion or impact could damage its surface.
At this point in time, Vantablack cannot be purchased at a consumer level, and it is not likely that it will be due to its complicated application process.
We do not have any exact figures, but Vantablack is also extremely expensive. With its uses typically reserved for advanced technology, it is a highly specialized material that is not cheap to manufacture and apply.
Perhaps in the future, we will see Vantablack application in consumer products and even fashion. Although the technology has not been developed for use in fabric, in time you could be sporting a blacker-than-black dress or jacket that will challenge the eyes of everyone that sees it.
Next time you see a dark black piece of clothing, car, a piece of furniture, etc., just remember, you haven’t seen pure black until you’ve seen Vantablack.