August 28, 2017

We haven’t really been able to create anything blacker than darkness but one of the blackest substances synthesized falls around that category and it’s called Vantablack. Developed by Surrey NanoSystems, the name was coined after the term ‘Vertically Aligned NanoTube Arrays,’ which is just what it is; a forest of vertical carbon nanotubes grown on the object itself using chemical vapour deposition (CVD). The average diameter of one such nanotube is around 20 nanometres; that is 3,500 times smaller than the width of the average human hair! Additionally, they are ordinarily from around 14 microns to 50 microns high. A surface area of 1 cm2 would contain around 1,000 million nanotubes. 


The material is so black that it absorbs 99.965% of incoming radiation from the visible spectrum and along with that, it works from ultraviolet and into the far infrared spectrum very efficiently with only a 0.036% of light reflection that is almost negligible, due to which the Guinness World Records recognized it as the ‘World’s Darkest Man-made Substance’. When electromagnetic waves strike the surface, instead of bouncing back they get deflected among the tubes continuously such that they eventually dissipate into heat and are conducted front-to-back excellently. Vantablack is so ideally structured that it showed undetectable levels of particle fallout and outgassing in tests; and it even proved to be highly resistant to shock and vibration. Surrey NanoSystems also developed a Vantablack spray paint configuration called Vantablack S-VIS, the original being Vantablack CVD.


The material’s rare and highly wanted properties allow it to fit in wide range of applications. Its original use was to coat space-borne craft for improving sensitivity and for being implemented into telescopes, infrared cameras and light sensitive systems for spotting even the dimmest of stars light years away. 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."


Other than being the darkest material and so much more, Vantablack is water-resistant allowing low maintenance time and cost



But since its development, military departments and the energy sector have also started ordering batches for applications like concentrated solar power and stealth technology from July 2014. Vantablack’s high absorption property allows it to beused on stealth craft which would shield them from radars through thermal camouflage or such. Also it will be able to absorb almost all the light making it a true solar panel. The heat produced from the absorption could be converted into electricity by pairing the set-up with advanced and efficient thermoelectric generators providing clean and perhaps limitless energy. The material is super hydrophobic too, meaning water and dust have no impact on it, allowing low maintenance costs. Furthermore it’s proving to be an invaluable component in art. It gives the effect of staring into a black hole, deceiving the eye with its amazing texture and contrast. The artist Anish Kapoor who owns exclusive rights to the product 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."




Well if it’s perfect, why isn’t revolutionizing technology? The only setback is that it is way too expensive for household use. As of 2017, just the sample of the CVD configuration measuring 40x40x3mm, costed £300! The thing is that the technology is new and most of the world still does not know about its immense facilities, hence there is little demand for it. Perhaps with time the demand will boom up once the public actually realizes its potential, lowering the price and making Vantablack buy-able to the common man.


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