In 2014, scientists at the British company Surrey NanoSystems made an important discovery – the blackest material ever created, named Vantablack. In March 2016, they took their research even further and unveiled a material that is somehow even darker.
The material is designed in such a way to absorb almost all of the light. In doing so it reflects nothing detectable to human eyes. Because of this, Vantablack is technically not
a color. The colors that we see are the result of light reflecting off of an object in certain ways, different frequencies of light translating into different colors. The material of Vantablack is designed of minuscule hollow tubes made of carbon. These carbon tubes are thinner than a human hair, about the width of an atom. When light hits these tubes, it is absorbed rather than reflected. The original Vantablack absorbed 99.6% of the light that hit it, so it’s likely that the new Vantablack absorbs even more. Instead of being a color, Vantablack is actually the near absence of all color.
These ultra black materials are being designed in order to eliminate light filtering into in satellites and telescopes. Surrey NanoSystems is testing Vantablack to see if it will hold up to the pressures of going into space. If it is, it could be used to calibrate NASA’s satellite cameras, allowing them to record more accurate photos of space. Sp far, the tests indicate that the material is fairly hardy, even against strong forces. This is because each tiny nanotube is a hollow tube of air, leaving the material with very little mass. Without mass, other forces don’t create acceleration when applied to Vantablack.
Beyond its potential uses in space, Vantablack may have a variety of other uses. Watchmakers, car manufacturers, and cell phone designers have all approached Surrey NanoSystems with an interest in the material. Artists are also very interested, but Surrey NanoSystems has thus far only granted one artist, Anish Kapoor, the right to use the material in his artwork.
Vantablack is so dark that it appears to the human eye as a certain softness, like velvet. But in fact, Vantablack simply feels like any other smooth surface. The nanotubes within are so tiny that the weight of a finger collapses them. This is why, despite the Vantablack sturdiness in space tests, it is still very delicate to human touch and can’t yet be used on everyday objects.are so small and thin, they simply collapse under the weight of human touch.
Before you get any ideas about potential new self employment involving a can pf Vantablack and you as the Invisible Man, it’s worth noting that Vantablack is not for sale. The special nanotubes used to make Vantablack have to be grown in a lab. Surrey NanoSystems uses a patented and complex to create the substance. Then, applying Vantablack is a process that can take two days. It’s also worth noting that, according to the manufacturers, an ounce of Vantablack costs significantly more than the same weight of diamonds or gold.