Vantablack is supposedly the darkest substance ever made, and this is because it absorbs up to 99.965% of radiation in the visible spectrum of light. It’s made out of a forest of vertical tubes that are grown on a substrate using a modified version of a chemical process called chemical vapor deposition.
It can only be created at temperatures that are higher than 400C, so it can only be “grown” on substances that are capable of withstanding very high temperatures. Another interesting property that the material has is its ability to trap visible light and bounce it around among the nanotubes that make up the substance. This light eventually becomes absorbed and is dissipated into heat.
Vantablack’s unique properties have resulted in it being used in satellites and telescopes to eliminate stray light, and artists, designers, and other creatives are also falling over themselves to get their hands on it. Here’s a closer look at this wondrous material:
1. It’s the absorption of color rather than a color itself.
Many people know that the color black isn’t actually a color at all – it’s actually the complete absorption of visible light that allows us to see black, and the same applies to vantablack. It consists of carbon tubes, which are each the width of just a single atom. In fact, a square centimeter of the stuff contains an astonishing 1 billion nanotubes.
2. You can forget about buying it.
The process to make Vantablack is both highly complicated and patented. It involves several machines, numerous layers of different substances, and extreme levels of heat. The process to produce Vantablack can take two days to complete, and the material isn’t for sale to anyone. What’s more is that it’s prohibitively expensive, with its ounce-for-ounce price being higher than that of gold or diamonds.
3. It doesn’t feel like it looks.
Although people usually expect Vantablack to feel like warm velvet when they touch it due to its appearance, it actually feels completely smooth. That’s because of how thin the nanotubes that it’s made of are. They actually collapse under the weight of human touch, meaning that the material is pretty susceptible to damage. As a result, it can’t yet be applied to unprotected surfaces such as car exteriors or high-end gowns. All it would take for the material to lose its magic would be a single brush of the hand.
4. It’s almost weightless.
Despite it being sensitive to touch, Vantablack is incredibly robust against forces such as shock or vibration. This is due to the individual carbon nanotubes having no mass at all. In fact, most of the material in Vantablack is nothing more than air. According to principles of physics, if there’s no mass, there’s no force during acceleration. This makes Vantablack ideal for applications such as space launches.
5. It might have more applications than it was initially designed for.
Vantablack was originally intended for use in very high-tech sectors such as astronautics, but it looks like it could be applied to more everyday objects under the right conditions. A handful of luxury watchmakers have already approached Surrey NanoSystems, the company that created Vantablack, to inquire about the possibility of including it in their wristwatches. High-end car manufacturers have also approached the company about using Vantablack in the dashboard displays of the vehicles they produce. Last but not least, smartphone manufacturers have also been making their inquiries.
6. It won’t be used on clothes for a while yet.
It would be amazing if Vantablack could be applied to fabric without its physical properties being compromised, but achieving that is quite a long way off. It’s simply too susceptible to damage at the moment. Nevertheless, company representatives haven’t ruled out the possibility of “something along the lines of a black dress” being created.