Fade to 'Vantablack': Scientists Invent a Material So Black Your Eyes Can't See It
Black leather jacket, Eerie black, Outer space, Licorice, Onyx and plain old Black. These are the names of Crayola’s blackest of black crayons. Sure, they’re all jet black, but none of them have anything on “Vantablack,” an extraordinary new nanofiber believed to be the darkest black on Earth, even darker than NASA’s “super-black.”
Not to beat this unusually dark horse dead, but Vantablack is actually so deeply black that your eyes can’t really see it at all, only the area surrounding it. And we’re not kidding when we say looking at this “strange, alien” stuff is like gazing into a black hole. Not a deep, dark cave kind of hole. Think darker. The kind of black hole found in outer space.
Cue the happy, clapping ninjas. This stuff is seriously dark and deceptive. Check out this video from Yahoo:
Following two years of research and development, scientists at Surrey NanoSystems invented the world record-smashing ultra-black substance.
The Newhaven, England-based nanotechnology firm isn’t spilling all of the hush-hush trade secrets as to exactly how Vantablack was engineered. We do know, however, that the material is comprised of a tightly woven thatch of carbon nanotubes -- each 10,000 times finer than a single strand of human hair -- sprouted on sheets of aluminum foil. Sprouted as in grown. Yes, this stuff is definitely far out.
In case you’re wondering, the “vanta” part of the goth band-sounding name for the nanofiber signifies “vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays.”
The “black to end all blacks” was unveiled this week at the Farnborough International Airshow, a week-long trade show for insiders from the international aerospace and defense industries. As you might expect, showing off the material to military entities is hardly a coincidence. Surrey NanoSystems says it already shipped orders of the surreal substance to its first clients in the defense and space sectors and is stepping up production efforts to meet their demands.
Imagine seeing -- or, rather, not seeing -- military aircraft and other war machines covered in Vantablack, lurking in the dark of night. (Though, we think Vantablack-clad ninjas would be pretty cool, too.)
In the way of non-military uses, we could eventually see Vantablack replace the Aeroglaze Z306 polyurethane black coating found inside aerospace industry telescopes used to “see the faintest of stars,” as hinted at by Surrey NanoSystems chief technical officer Ben Jensen in a recent press announcement about the historic black breakthrough.
Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here.