Vantablack, the world’s darkest material, has been making the news ever since its invention back in 2014. The brainchild of British company Surrey Nanosystems, the substance is so incredibly black that it can absorb nearly 99.96-percent of all ultraviolet, infrared and visible light. In case you don’t believe there are different degrees of blackness, the developers have released a mind-boggling video of a three-dimensional object that appears two-dimensional when sprayed with Vantablack.
Over the years, the researchers at Surrey Nanosystems have continued to increase Vantablack’s “blackness”. In March of 2016, for instance, they unveiled an improved version that is so inconceivably dark that no existing spectrometer can measure how much light it actually absorbs and reflects. Speaking about this amazing material, the team said in a previous video:
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.
What’s more, they have even come up with a spray paint version called Vantablack S-VIS that common people like us can easily use. Although not as black as the original thing, it can still reportedly block up to 99.8-percent of infrared, visible as well as UV light. Before you hit an online store, you should know the developers are currently in the process of making it commercially available. At present, the only people who can get their hands on the product are scientists and those working at museums and university labs.
In case you are wondering how the whole thing works, Vantablack is a special coating containing several million carbon nanotubes, measuring around 20 nanometers by 14 to 50 micron (10-6 m). By comparison, 20 nanometers is over 3,500 times smaller than the width of a single human hair. As explained by the researchers, incident light automatically enters the nanoscopic gaps between the nanotubes, getting trapped and absorbed without any kind of reflection. They added:
The near total lack of reflectance creates an almost perfect black surface. To understand this effect, try to visualize walking through a forest in which the trees are around 3 km tall instead of the usual 10 to 20 meters. It’s easy to imagine just how little light, if any, would reach you.
To the naked eye, it appears more like a fathomless void than a black surface. In fact, staring at an object sprayed with Vantablack has in the past been compared to “looking at a black hole”. Speaking about the above image, which shows a sculpture that has been painted with Vantablack to look completely flat and featureless, Stephen Westland, a professor from Britain, said:
You expect to see the hills [of the bends and crumples] and all you can see … it’s like black, like a hole, like there’s nothing there. It just looks so strange. These new materials, they are pretty much as black as we can get, almost as close to a black hole as we could imagine.
Coming to applications, the technology could be used for stealth purposes by the military, and could also find use in space travel.
To know more about Vantablack, head over to Surrey Nanosystems’ official website.