Pigment Series Part IV: Vantablack

Posted by Curry S. on Jan 28th 2020

Pigment Series Part IV: Vantablack

Vantablack is a color, but not a pigment. Stay with us on this one. Vantablack, also known as Vertically Aligned NanoTube Array, was created by scientists at Surrey Nanosystems back in 2014. Since then it has been given the title of World’s Darkest Man-made Substance by the Guinness Book of World Records, and most recently, been used by British architect Asif Khan to create a building described as the "darkest on Earth," recently unveiled at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, in South Korea.

Asif Khan’s Hyundai Pavilion in Pyeongchang

Vantablack is not a paint, pigment or fabric. It consists of millions of small tubes made of carbon, or carbon nanotubes. It is “grown” in a specially designed chamber under powerful lamps, which allow the nanotube forest to grow. Yes, you read that right, light is used to create the world’s darkest substance. Science! So, what makes it so dark? Essentially, these tubes trap light. According to the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, UK, Vantablack is the darkest material ever measured by the reflecting only 0.036% of the light that strikes it.

Credit: Christoffer Rudquist | GQ Magazine

Light energy striking the Vantablack surface enters the space between the nanotubes and is rapidly absorbed as it ‘bounces’ from tube to tube and simply cannot escape as the tubes are so long in relation to their diameter and the space between them.” - Surrey Nanosystems

Vantablack is used mostly for ultra-black coatings, wiring in microchips, touch screens, and ultralight wiring. But more ~fun~ uses consist of using Vantablack to make three-dimensional objects appear two dimensional. When applied to a surface, it seems as though it changes the dimensions of the object, making 3D objects appear to be completely flat. Very confusing for your eyes, but very entertaining.

Credit: Surrey Nanosystems | GQ Magazine

The coating reflects so little light; three dimensions seem to disappear. When you look at Vantablack on some wrinkled aluminum foil, it looks like a black, flat, featureless void, even with your eyes right up to it.” - Ben Jensen, NY Times

So, there you have it! A color, if you want to consider the complete absence of color as a color, that doesn’t come from a pigment. Want to get your hands on the blackest black paint out there? You might be in luck! Singularity Black, a carbon nanotube paint developed by Waltham-based NanoLab, Inc.absorbs over 99.9 percent of light, making three-dimensional objects look two-dimensional, much like Vantablack. Interested in learning more about Singularity Black? Check out artist Jason Chase!

Singularity Black | Hyperallergic

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