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Meet Vantablack: The Blackest Material Known To Science

28 March 2017, 9:17 am EDT By Kalyan Kumar Tech Times
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Vantablack, the blackest material ever made, is moving to the application level with a spray on version. Vantablack is a wonder coating developed from an amalgam of millions of carbon nanotubes with each measuring 20 nanometres.  ( Surrey Nano Systems )

Invented by scientists in the UK in 2014, Vantablack was nicknamed the darkest material ever produced. It has the power to absorb 99.96 percent of light in the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared spectrum. Now, the material has come out in a sprayable form. 

Vantablack Spray-On Form Released

The blackest material's 'spray-on' form is capable of blocking 99.8 percent of infrared, ultraviolet, and visible light. However, like the original, it may not be able to give the perception of a 3D object in the 2D form.

The spray version Vantablack S-VIS is capable of spraying bigger objects. Even painting a stealth jet is not ruled out; however, at the moment, getting that coating for a car is not yet possible.

Maker Surrey NanoSystems announced in 2016 that they enhanced the blackness of Vantablack to such a degree that no spectrometer can ascertain the quantum of light it absorbs.

"Even running a high power laser pointer across it barely reflects anything back to the viewer," the researchers said in a video. Conventionally, there is no 'black' material that a spectrometer cannot pick up in the infrared.

Vantablack As Special Coating From Carbon Nanotubes

Originally, Vantablack is no paint but a special coating developed from an amalgam of carbon nanotubes measuring 20 nanometers each. It is a densely packed cluster of millions of tiny nanotubes. The light, while entering the gaps of nanotubes, gets trapped and is fully absorbed.

When the reflectance is completely blocked, according to the researchers, the perfect black surface emerges. One analogy to describe the thick darkness is walking through a forest where trees are unconventionally tall at 3 km instead of 20 meters and every ray of light is blocked.

The utterly black Vantablack is hard for the human eye to distinguish and can create the hallucination of viewing a 3D object as 2D object. In other words, viewing Vantablack will be like peering through a bottomless hole.

NASA Making Super Black Coating

Meanwhile, NASA also made a super-black coating material for space related applications that can absorb 99.9 percent of light.

NASA launched the carbon nanotube coating in 2014 and tested it at the International Space Station. John Hagopian, an engineer involved the super-black research, said that satellite controls, baffles, and absorbers in superconducting detectors are some of the areas the carbon nanotube coating can be used.

Hagopian is upbeat about future of the super-black materials in coronagraphs that are used in telescopes for blocking light so that celestial things like exoplanets can be watched.

In using the coating for products of day to day use, the tender nature of carbon nanotubes will be a challenge. But Ben Jensen, chief technical officer of Surrey NanoSystems, sees a vast growth area unfolding in the automotive industry for Vantablack.

The coating could be good enough to disallow the light to interfere with the sensors of self-driving cars.

"If you're driving in low sunlight and it blinds the vision system you come into an unsafe situation. Anything you can do with these technologies where you can protect and improve stray light suppression within the vision system is a real benefit," Jensen said.

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