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Vantablack vs. Black 2.0: Can black get any blacker than black?

The researchers at Surrey NanoSystems have succeeded in creating a high-tech shade of black that absorbs 99.60 percent of light – Vantablack is as dark as a black hole. This was reason enough for the British Stuart Semple to develop a second truly black tone. Read the whole black story here.

And this is how all it began…

V.A.N.T.A. – Vertically Alligned Nanotube Array BLACK – that’s the formula for the dark magic of Vantablack. Admittedly, it’s pure science, but when taking a closer look at the characteristics of Vantablack, the boundaries between science and art disappear.

The coating absorbs incident light by buffering the rays of light between the carbon nanotubes without reflecting them back. Our ability to see relies on rays of light being reflected by our surroundings. Our brain interprets the information and supplements it if necessary. This is why you can still recognize outlines and shapes when you try to sneak quietly into bed at night. However, objects coated with Vantablack lose this property.

Vantablack is this black

Source: Surray NanoSystems

The creation of Vantablack

To develop the Vantablack coating, an aluminium support is vaporized with an acetylene substrate. A catalyst is applied one layer at a time. The applied accelerator filters infrared radiation and, among other things, ensures that the otherwise necessary temperature of 750°C can be lowered to 450°C. Without this, the aluminium would melt before the first nanotube could be produced. How resistant the material is once developed is truly impressive, as this video shows.

Vantablack in space

The variant “Vanta S-VIS” is slightly less absorbent but can be sprayed on. In this form, it is currently used in a research-setting.

Vantablack creator Surray NanoSystems collaborates with Berlin Space Technologies, a Berlin-based company, whose products include components for small satellites used for orbital observation and solar system surveillance. Microsatellite Kent Ridge 1 was developed together with the University of Singapore and equipped with two hyperspectral cameras. These cameras do not only capture visible light, but also electromagnetic fields.

This can help to tap into new oil sources and collect data for numerous natural science projects. Unfavourable lighting conditions can, however, distorts this data. This is why the Microsatellite is coated with Vanta S-VIS. The incoming light is literally swallowed up by the coating and, as a result, has virtually no effect on the sensitive measurement equipment.

Source: Youtube, Surrey NanoSystems

Vanta 2.0

In a new trial, the British research team developed the next generation of Vantablack. It absorbs even more light – so far, even current laboratory equipment was unable to measure how much more light is being absorbed. Has Surray NanoSystems managed to create a material that truly absorbs all of it?

#ShareTheBlack: Competing for the blackest black

Despite its wide-ranging applicability, Vantablack receives criticism from the art world: dark black is not a colour to pain with. What was actually developed is an extraordinary colour for science and military. The sculptor Anish Kapoor has nevertheless secured exclusive user rights. This has caused quite a stir in the art scene. This is, on the one hand, due to the fact that the interest in the “non-colour” black has always been great – think of e.g. Goyas Black Paintings. On the other hand, artists criticize the global monopolization of colours.

The special yellow of the German Duden as well as the Magenta of the German Telekom are trademarked. Also the ultramarine of the Blue Man Group is actually called IKB (International Klein Blue) after its former owner, the French artist Yves Klein.

The birth of Black 2.0

The British artist Stuart Semple – sometimes described as the successor of Andy Warhol – felt particularly challenged. Together with international colour chemists and cosmeticians, Stuart Semple has developed Black 2.0. This next generation acrylic paint is not the blackest in the world, however, it is a better black since it can actually be used by artists.

Black for almost all Everybody can buy this black colour – with the exception of Anish Kapoor, the owner of Vantablack. When you are about to complete your order, the following text appears:

*Note: By adding this product to your cart you confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this material will not make its way into the hands of Anish Kapoor.

In the mood for more black?

You can’t get enough of the darkest black? Here you can take a look at the darkest building in the world: The Pavilion, by the British architect Asif Khan with VantablackVBx2 developed for the Olympics 2018, which brings a touch of space to South Korea.

If Vantablack fascinates you, you may also be interested in transparent wood, featured in our article “Strong as wood. Clear as glass”.

This article was updated on 22 March 2018.

Manmade complete darkness: Fascinating or worrying, or both? Share your comments with us – black on white.


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