Black is an important color. It helps Batman disappear against the night. It keeps Goth kids looking stylish. It’s the cover look for Spinal Tap’s infamous “Smell the Glove” album. Just when you thought black couldn’t get any darker, scientists from Surrey Nanosystems in the UK have announced the creation of a super black material.
The breakthrough isn’t geared toward fashion, however. It was developed for use in electro-optical imaging and target-acquisition systems in order to improve those devices’ sensitivity. One example of a use for the material is in telescopes to increase the instruments’ ability to see very faint stars.
Called Vantablack, Surrey says the new material “is revolutionary in its ability to be applied to lightweight, temperature-sensitive structures such as aluminum whilst absorbing 99.96 percent of incident radiation, believed to be the highest-ever recorded.”
Vantablack is created through a low-temperature carbon nanotube growth process. It took two years of development and testing to achieve success in applying the material onto aluminum structures and pyroelectric sensors, readying it for use in actual imaging systems. It can be used to coat components like optical sensors, baffles, and apertures.
“We are now scaling up production to meet the requirements of our first customers in the defense and space sectors, and have already delivered our first orders,” said Ben Jensen, Surrey Nanosystems’ chief technology officer. As it turns out, Vantablack is the new black.