In 2014, Surrey NanoSystems introduced Vantablack – the blackest material on earth, so black that it absorbs 99.96 percent of visible light and 99.85 percent of infrared radiation that touch it. Well, the new version of Vantablack the company just announced is even more black.
The inventors are not sure how much light the new “blacker” version of Vantablack absorbs, as even their most powerful infrared spectrometers can’t measure it. Also, high power laser pointer barely even reflects off of it. Vantablack, which stands for Vertically Aligned Nanotube Array black, is not a paint or pigment or fabric. It actually is a “free-space coating consisting of millions of aligned and equally spaced, high aspect-ratio carbon nanotubes (CNTs), with each one having a diameter of around 20 nanometers.” Surrey says a surface area of 1 cm^2 would contain around 1,000 million of these nanotubes.
As Nerdist notes, Vantablack is grown in a specially designed Chemical Vapour Deposition chamber that has an array of powerful lamps. These lamps allow the surface temperature of the material to rise up to more than 430 degree celsius for nanotube forest to grow. The reason the material absorbs an immeasurable amount of the visible radiation spectrum is that these nanotube forests trap photons almost instantly once they hit the surface and cause them to bounce between them for long enough. The photons then eventually “convert into heat.”
Although Vantablack was originally created “to enhance the performance of sensitive electro-optical imaging systems in a satellite application, it has a lot of other potential applications, too. For example, imagine using it for military purposes or in space sector. Report says Vantablack is being used in coating a can of Lynx body spray and it took 400 hours to do so.
Surrey NanoSystems restricts the use of Vantablack in art due to the way in which it is made. But, fortunate enough for a famed sculptor Anish Kapoor, he is the only person licensed to use Vantablack.
Surrey notes, “Vantablack S-VIS also requires specialist application to achieve its aesthetic effect. In addition, the coating’s performance beyond the visible spectrum results in it being classified as a dual-use material that is subject to UK Export Control. We have therefore chosen to license Vantablack S-VIS exclusively to Kapoor Studios UK to explore its use in works of art. This exclusive licence limits the coating’s use in the field of art, but does not extend to any other sectors.”