Vantablack is the new black

A shiny metallic gold bust of a head directly looking a black bust.

Categories: Materials

21 March 2016


Vantablack, one of the world’s blackest materials, is on display at the Science Museum. Its dark appearance is the result of a unique forest-like coating of densely packed, ultra-thin carbon nanotubes which absorb 99.96% of visible light that hits its surface.

Developed by UK scientists at Surrey Nanosystems, Vantablack (named from Vertically Aligned Nanotube Arrays) could help telescopes see further, although BBC One’s The One Show had an alternative use for it. The One Show commissioned two bronze busts of presenter Marty Jopson, coating one with Vantablack. These are on display at the Museum (from 12 February 2016 for four months), so you can see this incredible material for yourself.

Vantablack is also being used by artist Sir Anish Kapoor who described the material as ‘blacker than anything you can imagine. So black you almost can’t see it… Imagine a space that’s so dark that as you walk in you lose all sense of where you are, what you are, and especially all sense of time’. Why is this material so black? Instead of being reflected, light striking Vantablack becomes trapped within the forest of carbon nanotubes, eventually emerging as infra-red light (heat). Because so little light (just 0.04%) is reflected, the human eye struggles to see shadows or contours on its surface, which is why it even makes 3D objects appears flat.

Vantablack is on display at the Science Museum from 12 February 2016 in Antenna, the Museum’s contemporary science gallery.This article, written by Will Stanley, first appeared on the Science Museum blog on 3 February 2016, and has been reproduced with permission from the Science Museum.

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