Vantablack: The world’s darkest material

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Vantablack: The world’s darkest material

By Alexander Lim, Year 9G

Colour has always been an important part of our vision. It allows us to differentiate objects, organize different items that look the same and just generally make life look happier. But what if I told you that scientists have created a color so impossibly dark that you can’t figure out the detail in it? So black to the point that it looks like you’re staring into a black hole? My friends, this color is real and it goes by the name of Vantablack.

What you’re seeing right here is Vantablack. Looks like someone photoshopped it, right? In 2014, a company called Surrey Nanosystems released Vantablack, a coating so dark that it absorbs 99.965% of all light that hits it. Obviously, this led to some skepticism, so to prove that it was real, in 2015 they spray-painted some onto a Lynx can and put it up for display. They proceeded to interview those who had seen it. The man shown in this picture who had seen it stated: “It’s so dark, it feels like you’re staring into a black hole” … that’s pretty impressive right? Well, earlier in 2016 they revamped it with Vantablack 2, which absorbs so much light that their spectrometers couldn’t register it!

So, all this of this stuff is great, but the real question is: How do they make it and how on earth does it work? Well, the reason why you can see colour is due to the fact that whenever light hits an object, it is reflected back into your eye to then be translated into perceivable colours. The “Vanta” in Vantablack stands for Vertically Aligned Carbon NanoTube Arrays, as it is made out of carbon nanotubes. While the recipe for this stuff is classified, it’s been shown that it involves specially designed heat lamps that reach over 430 degrees celsius. How the nanotubes work is confusing and difficult to explain, but in a nutshell, they absorb the light by trapping the photons that hit it. Scientists are also experimenting with Vantablack for the possibility of space travel, since it has been shown to withstand the shock of a rocket launch. On the other end of the spectrum, Vantablack is also being experimented with fabric and they are experimenting whether it can be applied to dresses as well.

Speaking of cool things that Vantablack has been applied to, Surrey Nanosystems started making a few videos showcasing some comparisons and funny things you can do with Vantablack. These include coating aluminum foil, masks, marbles and mirrors. They’ve even had some fun with Vantablack, dropping it in water and spraying nitrogen on it! While you can buy this stuff in spray-on form, no average Joe can just slap some on and call it a day. Specialists are required to spray it on carefully in layers, otherwise the coating will not bind and thus not work. A British sculptor heard about it and actually bought the right to use Vantablack artistically in his work! As Michael Aranda, host of Scishow states: ”I don’t know about you, but 16 year-old me would be really excited about this!”

Vantablack is a mind-boggling material that has shell-shocked multiple people in the world. Surrey Nanosystems have pioneered a new path in colour, making some extremely fascinating finds along the way. While its practicality is to be questioned, chances are, this material will forever be remembered as “The Closest Black Hole on Earth”.

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