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UK scientists develop super-black material that absorbs 99.96 percent of surface light


July 21, 2014

Vantablack is produced using a patented, low-temperature carbon nanotube growth process

Vantablack is produced using a patented, low-temperature carbon nanotube growth process

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A newly produced material is believed to be the "blackest" ever created. Vantablack is a pure carbon coating and absorbs 99.96 percent of incident radiation (solar energy as it hits the material's surface). Manufacturer Surrey NanoSystems believes that is the highest such figure ever recorded.

Vantablack was created in partnership with the National Physical Laboratory and the ABSL Space Products division of Enersys as part of the UK Technology Strategy Board's Space for Growth program. The program aimed to help space related technologies to reach their full commercial potential.

Speaking to Gizmag, Surrey NanoSystems CTO Ben Jensen explained that some work had already been done on creating super-black materials by NASA and other organizations. The materials were being developed in part for use in aircraft and spacecraft. Titanium and silicon substrates were being used on which to grow the materials.

Weight is, of course, a major issue where air and space travel is concerned. Additionally, the use of high temperatures when creating carbon nanotube materials means they cannot be directly applied to sensitive electronics or materials with low melting points. As such, Vantablack was developed through a need to use aluminum as a more suitable substrate.

Surrey NanoSystems produces Vantablack using a low-temperature carbon nanotube growth process that's usually used when working with silicon. The process utilizes photothermal chemical vapor deposition, with which a solid material is deposited on the substrate from a gas.

According to Surrey NanoSystems, Vantablack has the highest thermal conductivity and lowest mass-volume of any material that can be used in high-emissivity applications. Such applications are those that require the use of materials that can better radiate energy. In addition, the material is said to be able to withstand launch shock, staging and long-term vibration, making it suitable for coating internal components.

"When you look at a surface it will just look very black," explains Jensen to Gizmag. "When you look at a 3D surface, you can't see any 3D shape. It's just completely black."

Jensen believes that Vantablack is a major breakthrough for the application of nanotechnology to optical instrumentation. "Its ultra-low reflectance improves the sensitivity of terrestrial, space and airborne instrumentation," he says.

Vantablack is commercially available now and the first shipments are now being delivered.

Source: Surrey NanoSystems

About the Author
Stu Robarts Stu is a tech writer based in Liverpool, UK. He has previously worked on global digital estate management at Amaze and headed up digital strategy for FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). He likes cups of tea, bacon sandwiches and RSS feeds. All articles by Stu Robarts

INVISIBLE OR "Black" Agents spying on us w/cloaking costumes and black spaceships and satellites

BeSoon Son

Get that onto a supercar!


Sounds like it would be great for a thermal solar collector if the price is somewhat reasonable.


AFAIU, Vantablack gets its blackness by having a textured (OK, nano-textured) surface finish. This finish is unlikely to shed contaminants easily; as a matter of fact one would expect that dust and other dirt would readily stick to this surface, and once it got grimy, the finish would no longer be so perfectly black.


@ Freederick That is not a problem inside a "glass" box.


There is glass that allows 99.9% IR to pass. The problem for solar cookers is keeping it there. This coating would do that.

Don Duncan

If it wouldn't get dirty it would be ideal as a coating for radiators for vehicles. The enhanced emissivity should allow shrinking the radiator size while maintaining the same level of heat transfer.

Gregg Eshelman

Could this material in any way be applied to display screens for computers and tablets. I know how annoying it can get where glare and the sun can be a major problem when working in certain areas of a building. Would Vantablack absorb the glare and solar light interference?


@Slowburn and Don Duncan: I had similar thoughts as well as a follow on for Slowburn's.

Most solar panels including multi-layer solar panels still allow most of the light through. You could put up your solar panels with heat pipes coated with this underneath to provide electricity for you house, hot water year round, and depending on the engineering heat for the winter and a steam powered AC for the summer. An additional benefit would be the almost complete blocking of any solar heating of attic spaces during the summer. Of course on the down side, no heating of spaces during the winter. This directly affects the temperature differential for heat transfer increasing/decreasing the HVAC sizing requirements.

Another possible domestic use would be to triple distill any incoming water to your home for the purest water possible. This would require a domestic reservoir.


I would love to have Vantablack clothing and paint. that would be awesome.

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