This material is the darkest, blackest material ever to be invented, and to give you an idea of how black it is, the inventors have announced that there is no spectrometer in the world powerful enough to measure how much light it absorbs.
In 2014 Surrey NanoSystems introduced us to what it calls Vantablack — which stands for Vertically Aligned Nanotube Array black and was the blackest material known to science. The material was so dark that it absorbed all but 0.035 percent of visible light — meaning it was borderline invisible.
Now the team of British researchers are making headlines again with their new and improved Vantablack. All we know so far about this record-breaking material is what’s in the video filmed by the Vantablack inventors just moments after it was removed from the reactor.
In this video from Surrey NanoSystems, you can see the material consumes the laser pointer in darkness as it moves across:
The team explains:
“It’s resulted in a coating so black that our spectrometers can’t measure it!
“Even running a high power laser pointer across it barely reflects anything back to the viewer. We have never before made a material so ‘black’ that it can’t be picked up on our spectrometers in the infrared.”
When Surrey NanoSystems introduced the original Vantablack, the company said that the material was made by growing a forest of carbon nanotubes on aluminum-based surfaces. Until now, attempts at making super black materials had required expensive and extremely high-temperatures. But Surrey NanoSystems is now able to manufacture it using low temperatures.
The old Vantablack was capable of absorbing 99.96 percent of light that touches it. It was so dark that your eyes would of been fooled into thinking it was a smooth surface. Well, the new and improved version is much darker than that — in fact it’s so dark Surrey can’t even work out the percentage of light that gets absorbed because its spectrometers can’t measure it.
On Surrey NanoSystems it states:
“The CNT array is patterned and spaced to allow photons to enter. Most of the light or radiation arriving at the surface enters the space between the carbon nanotubes (CNTs), and is repeatedly reflected between tubes until it is absorbed and converted to heat. This heat (largely undetectable in most applications) is conducted to the substrate and dissipated.”
So, what is this magic? Vantablack is a special coating made from millions of carbon nanotubes, with each one measuring around 20 namometres — which is approximately 3,500 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair by 14 to 50 microns. According to Surrey NanoSystems, a surface area of just 1 cm² would contain around 1,000 million of these nanotubes.
In this video by Surrey NanoSystems you can see, or rather you can not see, the wrinkles in the foil:
As the light hits the carbon nanotubes, it enters the gaps between the nanotubes, and is almost instantly absorbed as it bounces between them and can’t escape.
“The near total lack of reflectance creates an almost perfect black surface.
“To understand this effect, try to visualise walking through a forest in which the trees are around 3 km tall instead of the usual 10 to 20 metres. It’s easy to imagine just how little light, if any, would reach you.”
The material could be used where stray light can cause problems, such as inside a telescope. It could also improve laser projection systems and solar energy technology. The NanoSystems lists a range of possible applications on its website.
Internationally acclaimed sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor, told the BBC that a space coated in Vantablack would be unnerving — to say the least. “Imagine a space that’s so dark that as you walk in, you lose all sense of where you are, what you are, and especially all sense of time,” he said.
But Kapoor has created waves in the art community by announcing that he’s bought the exclusive rights to use Vantablack in his art.
If you’re still not convinced of the blackest, black material’s blackness, here is Vantablack’s material compared to other shades of black: