Vantablack is a substance made of carbon nanotubes and is the blackest substance known, absorbing up to 99.965% of radiation in the visible spectrum.
Vantablack is composed of a forest of vertical tubes which are "grown". When light strikes vantablack, instead of bouncing off, it becomes trapped and is continually deflected among the tubes, eventually becoming absorbed and dissipating into heat.
Vantablack was an improvement over previous similar substances developed at the time. Vantablack absorbs 99.965% of visible light. Also, this new material can be created at 400 °C (752 °F); NASA had developed a similar substance that could be grown at 750 °C (1,380 °F). Vantablack can be grown on materials that cannot withstand higher temperatures.
The outgassing and particle fallout levels of Vantablack are low. The high levels in similar substances in the past had prevented their commercial usefulness. Vantablack also has greater resistance to mechanical vibration, and has greater thermal stability.
Early development was carried out at the National Physical Laboratory (UK), although the term "Vanta" wasn't coined until sometime later. The substance is now being developed by Surrey NanoSystems.
This substance has many potential applications, including preventing stray light from entering telescopes, and improving the performance of infrared cameras both on Earth and in space, Ben Jensen, Chief Technology Officer, Surrey NanoSystems, has explained: "For example, it reduces stray-light, improving the ability of sensitive telescopes to see the faintest stars... Its ultra-low reflectance improves the sensitivity of terrestrial, space and air-borne instrumentation."
Vantablack may also increase the absorption of heat in materials used in concentrated solar power technology, as well as military applications such as thermal camouflage. The emissivity of Vantablack and scalability support a wide range of applications.
The material is being used by artist Anish Kapoor who said, "It's effectively like a paint... 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." The colour was exclusively licensed to Kapoor's studio for artistic use, outraging some other artists who would be unable to use it. However, the manufacturer has explained that Vantablack is also subject to export controls by the UK, and due to its temperature and physical requirements is not practical for use in many types of art.
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- Anish Kapoor Angers Artists By Seizing Exclusive Rights To 'Blackest Black' Pigment
- Some Artists Are Seeing Red Over A New 'Black' : The Two-Way : NPR
- FAQs | Surrey NanoSystems
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