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  • vantablack via surrey nano sistems

All You Need to Know About the Blackest Black

December 27, 2016
Web journalist, coffee junkie and art fanatic. Cares about the environment, writes for Widewalls. Alias of Milica Jovic

Since its invention back in 2014 Vantablack, the color dubbed the world’s blackest black captured the attention of the media and various artists around the world. The material described by Anish Kapoor as the color “blacker than anything you can imagine” or the color “so black that you almost can see it1 aims to revolutionize the contemporary art as we know it. Or at least the art of Kapoor who currently holds exclusive rights to the coating. The famous British sculptor is currently the only person that’s allowed to use the material in creative arts. The decision to sell the rights to one man only caused a stir in the art world and further increased the popularity of the material. But what exactly is Vantablack? And what is its purpose in the art world? The answers to these questions require going deep into the explanation of the scientific process of the creation of the world’s blackest black.

The scientist said that carbon nanotube absorbs 99.96 % of light
Vantablack is made from carbon nanotubes that can absorb up to 99.96 % of light photo via wikipedia.org

The Story Behind the World’s Blackest Black

In the first paragraph, we have already referred to Vantablack as the coating and there’s a good reason for that. According to its inventors the Surrey Nanosystems company Vantablack is not a color nor a pigment while in fact, it is a “super-black coating that holds the world record as the darkest man-made substance.2 The dark substance is created for satellites, telescopes and similar apparatus and has the unique ability to absorb 99.96% of light. In comparison, other types of dark paint can only absorb about 96% or 97% or light. The effect is achieved by equipping the paint with millions of nanotubes. When light is pointed at the material it quickly enters the nanotubes’ cavities where it’s transformed to heat. The fact that Vantablack absorbs the light almost completely has caused a variety of unusual effects that made it very popular among art-makers, car manufacturers, watchmakers, and space industry companies.

The demonstration of Vantablack

Applicable in the Outdoors and the Gallery

So what’s makes Vantablack so special and hugely desirable? It’s not its scientific qualities of the pigment but the optical illusion it can create. Once placed on any type of material or an object Vantablack creates and illusion of a black hole within the material. Vantablack is so powerful that once it’s placed on a three-dimensional object it practically eliminates the third dimension tricking the human eye to think that it’s observing the two-dimensional object. According to their inventors, the coating is so powerful that if humans were to wear a dress made from Vantablack they would “look like a two-dimensional cardboard cut-out”3. This unique ability to erase the third dimension and create the illusion of looking into a black hole rather than in a painted object made Vantablack hugely popular among creatives that were not happy with the news that the coating is reserved for one artist only.

By limiting privacy and usage rights the company protects its privacy and product
VantaBlack Coated Mask via sciencemuseum.com

Vantablack and the Exclusive Rights Controversy

Earlier this year when Kapoor bought the exclusive rights to Vantablack he already had a particular use for the color in mind. The artist told the BBC that he plans to use the color to create a mind-bending artwork that will make people disoriented and unaware of the time and space thus forcing them to reach within themselves to find other resources for orientation. “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.”- the artist said for BBC. “Something happens to your emotional self and in disorientation, one has to reach in for other resources,4 Though Vantablack is not available for purchase it’s highly possible that it will be in the future. Considering that Vantablack is a recently made material it’s understandable that its creators aim to keep some sort of control of the way its being used. However, Surrey NanoSystem’s Steve Northam stated that the company will continue to “reassess this agreement” with the famous artist in the days to come which means that other artists may get the opportunity to use Vantablack in the days to come.

Also, it seems that Vantablack will have to give up on its title of the world’s blackest black soon enough. Surrey NanoSystems, the company that invented Vantablack in the first place, recently said that it’s currently working on a different material that can absorb even more light than Vantablack thus creating an even darker shade. The experimental coating is based on a completely different non-nanotube technology and represents a material more tolerant to handling than its predecessor. Just like Vantablack, this coating can be applied to various objects to change their appearance and make the black hole effect even more prominent as the eye struggles to catch a glimpse of the third dimension. The material is still in development and can not be found or purchased anywhere. However meticulous testings are being performed during the final quarter of 2016 that suggest that the new coating can find its way to the market soon.5 And when it does it will probably be greeted with just as much as excitement as Vantablack was in 2014. That’s good news for all artists looking to add the coating to their work since, in they react in time, they might get the opportunity to buy the rights to the material before somebody else grabs it.

References:

  1. Montague S. How black can black be?,BBC [December 26, 2016]
  2. Anonymous What is Vantablack?, Surrey NanoSystem[December 26, 2016]
  3. Frater, J.You can’t see it, or figure out its shape: Is this the real black?, CNN [Decebrar 26, 2016]
  4. Montague S. How black can black be?,BBC [December 26, 2016]
  5. Anonymous Non-nanotube super-black coating demonstration,Surrey NanoSystems Youtube channel [December 26, 2016]

Featured image : Vantablack via surreynanosistems.com