The world’s blackest material
What you’re looking at is a physical object that’s been sprayed with Vantablack – the blackest material known to science.
r with Vantablack was invented by British researchers back in 2014, and soon after, it was declared the darkest material ever produced in the lab, capable of absorbing 99.96 percent of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light.
Since then, the team behind the invention – from Surrey NanoSystems – has upped its blackness, and in early 2016, announced that no spectrometer in the world was powerful enough to measure how much light it absorbs.
In order to make this thing more marketable, the team has now released a ‘spray-on’ form, which isn’t quite as black – it only blocks 99.8 percent of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light – but that’s enough to make three-dimensional objects appear distinctly two-dimensional.
So how does it actually work? In its original, blackest form, Vantablack isn’t a paint, pigment, or fabric, but is actually a special coating made from millions of carbon nanotubes, each one measuring around 20 nanometres (roughly 3,500 times smaller than a human hair) by 14 to 50 microns. To put that in perspective, 1 nanometre equals 0.001 microns.
So a surface area of Vantablack measuring just 1 cm squared would contain around 1,000 million of these tiny nanotubes.
When light hits this arrangement, it enters the gaps between the nanotubes, and is almost instantly trapped and absorbed as it bounces between them.
“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.”
Vantablack is so dark, it’s almost impossible for the human eye to perceive it – we need some order of reflected light for our brains to be able to process what’s in front of us. As a result, the team says the observer’s ability to perceive gets confused, and some people say looking at Vantablack is like looking into a bottomless hole.
Their new spray-on version, called Vantablack S-VIS, now allows them to apply Vantablack to much larger objects, which means there really is a possibility of stealth jets being painted in the stuff.