Is Vantablack The World's Darkest Material?
Can you name the darkest substance humans have ever created? It’s called Vantablack - a material that looks like a dark hole.
Vantablack is so dark that if you paint a face or any 3D shape using it, you won’t be able to see the 3D object. This intriguing substance comes in the form of a super-black coating that captivates the attention of not just scientists but many visual artists as well.
To give you an idea of Vantablack’s darkness, here is a cool example — imagine placing a small spherical ball in front of a large square plate; if both the objects are coated with Vantablack, your eyes won’t be able to spot the sphere placed in front of the square, unless you start moving the sphere away or you change your position and look at the arrangement from sides.
Since Vantablack has the power to absorb 99.96% of light, human eyes are unable to perceive anything other than sheer darkness when they look at objects coated with it.
This magical material was created by Ben Jensen, founder of Surrey Nanosystems Limited, a UK-based company that owns all the rights related to Vantablack.
It is currently made available in three versions; a sprayable paint called Vantablack VBx, a black coating that is great at absorbing infrared light known as Vantablack S-IR, and Vantablack S-VIS, another coating that imbibes light falling in the visible spectrum. Both S-IR and S-VIS versions are designed using randomly-aligned carbon nanotubes.
The strength of Vantablack can be imagined from the fact that before melting under extreme conditions, it can withstand temperatures up to 5432°F (3000°C). Even to create this uncanny substance, scientists need to create an environment that operates at 752°F (400°C).
But why do we even need a scary substance like Vantablack?
Well, it may sound weird but Jensen and his team developed Vantablack with the purpose of improving the visibility of distant objects in outer space. They suggest that Vantablack can absorb glare coming from various cosmic bodies and enable space travelers to see far-located stars and planets, that’d be hard to notice otherwise.
Vantablack also creates a void effect which is superbly demonstrated by visual artist Anish Kapoor in his artwork “Descent into limbo.” Kapoor used the super-dark material to create a sense of absolute void or nothingness in space.
What’s interesting is that although many artists want to use Vantablack, Kapoor was the first to buy its exclusive rights in 2014, and since then, he has been the only artist that can use the darkest material on Earth for his artworks.
So far, Vantablack has shown its ability to influence the worlds of science, art, and space travel. We don’t know yet, but there could be many other dimensions where its darkness could be of great use.
As Darth Vader (from Star Wars) once famously said, “If only you knew the power of the dark side.”