The Blackest Black is Back
Views 15 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 4 - 11 - 2017 | By: Austin Nachbur
Surrey NanoSystems, a nanotechnology firm based in Newhaven, United Kingdom, recently released what they claim is the new “World’s Blackest Black,” dubbed Vantablack 2.0, outdoing their previous “Blackest Black,” Vantablack 1.0, created in 2015.
Vantablack (“Vanta” meaning Vertically Aligned NanoTube Arrays) is a “functionalised ‘forest’ of millions upon millions of incredibly small tubes made of carbon… each [having] a diameter of around 20 nanometres (sic).” This means each tube is over 3,000 times smaller than the diameter of human hair. The structure of these tubes makes Vantablack so dark that when three-dimensional objects are painted Vantablack, they appear two-dimensional.
It starts with the perception of color. Eyes see objects with certain colors because of the way they absorb and reflect light. Light itself is white, but can be divided into the traditional seven different wavelengths of the rainbow. Paints are chemicals that are designed to reflect certain wavelengths, and appear certain colors. White objects reflect all light, and black objects theoretically absorb all of it, except that the blackest naturally occurring object only absorbs about 95% of light. Due to its “forest-like” structure of carbon nanotubes, however, Vantablack 2.0 absorbs 99.964% of light, giving it the title of “blackest black ever.”
Surrey Nanosystem posits a number of uses that the original Vantablack have already been applied to. With its tremendous ability to absorb light across the whole spectrum (not just visible, but UV and infrared as well), Vantablack can be used in high-performance infrared cameras, such as the ones used in NASA observation satellites, as well as other space-borne devices where there is no atmosphere to protect from UV rays. Surrey NanoSystems also claims that Vantablack may eventually be used in advanced solar power systems, given its incredible ability to absorb light.
Besides technology, Vantablack has been used in several high end (and ridiculously expensive) luxury products, such as the limited edition S110 Evo Vantablack watch, which you could buy for $95,000, if more than ten had been made. This artistic application however, has sparked a debate in the art community over who can “own” a color.
The highly influential British artist Anish Kapoor is currently the only artist permitted to use Vantablack in sellable products, after an exclusive deal signed with Surrey NanoSystems shortly after the creation of the original Vantablack. He created the Evo watch and several other products using it, much to the chagrin of other artists, especially Stuart Semple, another British artist who believes the material should be open sourced to any and all artists. It seems absurd to disagree with him, as how can someone, discoverer or otherwise, “own” a color?
Westmont Arts Department Chair Dr. Lisa DeBoer chimes, “It’s important to distinguish between chemicals and colors. While one can’t really patent a wavelength per se… one can certainly patent a chemical invention that results in a certain [color].” Because one cannot get the color Vantablack without the chemical Vantablack, it remains a product of Surrey NanoSystems, and they can give or restrict usage rights to whomever they choose. If someone were to find a way to get the color without the chemical, the issue might be different.
Vantablack and Surrey NanoSystems revolutionize both the technological and artistic world with this new color-chemical. It advocates for the necessity of art in any advanced society as well as revealing potential future problems with art and technology’s relationship, such as owning color.