You have probably heard of Vantablack by now, since the world’s darkest material has taken industries from science to art by storm. When Surrey NanoSystems first released Vantablack, they suggested that the carbon nanotubes were capable of absorbing 99.96 percent of light that touches it. This new version absorbs even more light, and the resulting material is so dark that the nanotechnology company’s spectrometers can’t even measure exactly how dark it is.
Vantablack has frequently been described as a forest of nanotubes that can be grown on an aluminum base. The name actually stands for Vertically Aligned Carbon Nanotube Arrays, since the material is created through a low-temperature carbon nanotube growth process that creates zillions of nanotubes, all standing straight up. The resulting material is so dark that if Vantablack is grown on a crumpled piece of aluminum foil, it works like an optical illusion to make your eye think it is a perfectly flat surface.
Branches of the military have already tapped many possible uses for Vantablack, including stealth coating for vehicles and equipment. If applied to everything from ground vehicles to helicopters and even soldiers’ uniforms, Vantablack could make troops appear virtually invisible, particularly during nighttime operations. Scientists also have unrestricted access to the material for the purpose of experimentation and discovery – a team of researchers at Utah State University even used Vantablack to create a wildly absorbent urinal cake.
Artists, unfortunately, haven’t been so lucky. Surrey NanoSystems announced that they would be limiting the use of Vantablack for artistic purposes, unless you happen to be UK-based sculptor Anish Kapoor. Despite the commotion that move caused in the art world, the decision is a testament to the delicate nature of Vantablack as a material and the fact that it requires specialist application to achieve its blacker-than-black visual effect. For now, Vantablack and its newer, darker iteration will be relegated to the creativity of science and technology labs.