What’s the darkest color you can think of? Most people would say black. Scientists aren’t so sure anymore after Vantablack was created.
Developed by Surrey NanoSystems in 2014, the technology is truly one a kind. Short for vertically aligned nanotube array, Vantablack is now the darkest black color in the world—capable of absorbing 99.965 percent of visible light radiation.
Vantablack is made from an array of nanotubes, grown on a base of aluminum foil. The color absorbs so much light that it appears completely smooth on a crumpled piece of aluminum foil.
To get an idea of what this mysterious material actually looks like, scientists coated a can of Lynx deodorant body spray with Vantablack. The process took roughly 400 hours over the course of four months because Vantablack is 10,000 times thinner than the average human hair.
The result? An almost completely two-dimensional hole, in the shape of a Lynx can.
This is revolutionary, and many artists seem to think so as well. This is why the art community was outraged when Surrey NanoSystems announced its decision to restrict the use of Vantablack in artistic ventures.
Except for one lucky artist, Anish Kapoor, who specializes in producing art that distorts perception.
The scientists at Surrey Nanosystems were impressed with Kapoor’s work. Ben Jensen, founder and chief technology officer, said “He has an amazing ability to see things that other people don’t and he’s famous for his work in reflections and voids.”
The company addressed the art community on their website, saying “Vantablack is generally not suitable for use in art due to the way in which it’s made. 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 license limits the coating’s use in the field of art, but does not extend to any other sectors.”
In other words, Vantablack is not available for commercial art use yet. It requires a temperature of approximately 400°C to grow and it needs to be maintained at highly specific temperatures and pressures, which makes exporting it out of the UK very difficult.
However, Vantablack could still serve a multitude of other purposes. Its potential uses are mostly in the tech world. Namely, for advances in space technology, such as the absorption of stray light from telescopes and infrared cameras. This could greatly increase the sensitivity of long distance telescopes.
It is believed that Vantablack could be used in military applications, such as thermal camouflage, due to its incredible heat absorbing properties.
Scientists are already astounded by the opportunities Vantablack has created for both the arts and the sciences. With so many possibilities, we can only imagine what the future holds.