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Vantablack paint

Vantablack

The blackest black paint has a name: Vantablack

We have all dreamed of making things invisible. And now, this might be possible! The special Vantablack paint from Surrey NanoSystems in the United Kingdom is the blackest black that exists today. It is so black it holds the Guinness World Record for the Darkest Man-made Substance. 

The coating was originally developed for satellite-borne black body calibration systems; but with such exciting optical and physical characteristics, it was quickly applied to many other uses. Imagine a watch coated in Vantablack, or a car! This might be possible in the future.

In this article we will discuss the properties of this amazing innovation AND answer the question that is on everyone’s lips; where do I find it?

Vantablack paint vs normal black paint

The secret of Vantablack’s blackness is that it consists of a forest of tiny carbon nanotubes which are “grown”on a substrate while in a vacuum chamber. When you coat a surface with this special paint, the carbon nanotubes absorb 99.965% of all visible light (as well as invisible light such as ultraviolet and infrared ).

In short:

Vantablack spray paint sample

Vantablack paint is so dark it does not reflect water drops.

Vantablack paint is so black that, when used to a coat a bowl, all the eye can see is a flat black circle. Normal black paint does not even come close!

The name “vanta” stands for Vertically Aligned NanoTube Array.

Some of the extraordinary properties of the coating include:

  • Extremely high light absorbance
  • High front to back thermal conduction
  • Super hydrophobic: water has no effect on the optics
  • Thermal shock resistance: fast transfer from -196°C to 300°C has no impact on the coating’s properties.
  • High shock and vibration resistance

Applying Vantablack to your car

While it would obviously be hugely dangerous to paint a whole car with Vantablack, not to mention expensive, using the coating to highlight interior designs or accents could be incredibly effective. Imagine the instrumentation of your dashboard with the blackest black background, the displays the only source of light.

The material was originally designed for use in a diverse range of applications, from infrared cameras to scientific instruments. Ideally, it should be applied to surfaces that are protected, either within a packaged product or behind a protective layer. The unique structure makes it particularly susceptible to direct impacts or abrasions, so particularly unsuited to coating a car. Unless, that is, you never want the car to leave the garage.

So don’t expect a Vantablack car just yet.

But don’t worry:

Vantablack paint for your car might be a thing for the future. Researchers are constantly testing the substance on new substrates to discover new possibilities. In the future, everything could be Vantablack.


Own the first Vantablack Watch

Vantablack watch

Vantablack watch

While the expense of the blackest black currently prices out most of the market, luxury items have already adopted this cool new substance. Swiss watchmaker  MCT (Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps) in partnership with Anish Kapoor (the exclusive owner of artistic rights to the use of Vantablack) have brought out the Sequential One S110 Evo Vantablack in an edition so limited they only made ten.

This kind of cutting edge style does not come cheap:  You can purchase the Sequential One for a mere £75,000, plus tax.

It looks like this:

Each watch uses the substance to coat the inside of the case, giving the illusion that the dials are floating in a black hole. The tip of the second hand is also coated, and as it rotates over the black of the casing you can watch as it seems to entirely disappear.

With the high public interest and demand for Vantablack it won’t be long before we start seeing (or not seeing) the substance being applied to more and more products.


The only place to buy Vantablack Paint or a sample

At this time Surrey NanoSystems (SNS), the creators of Vantablack, control all manufacture and distribution of the coating, and they do not sell to private individuals. They do, however, sell their product to verified companies, research facilities and educational institutions.

Buy Vantablack sample

Vantablack sample for schools and museum

If you work at a university or museum, you can purchase a sample for educational purposes. The sample consists of a ‘crinkled foil’ display unit that demonstrates to viewers the unique properties of the coating.

Sample pricing:

  • Aluminium Coupon 40mm x 40mm x 3mm – £300
  • Aluminium Foil iwith Vantablack hexagon 100mm x 100mm – £323
  • Copper Coupon 76.2 x 25.4mm – £300
  • Educational Sample – £560

The high intensity process that is used to make Vantablack means even a small amount may be enough to break the bank. If you were hoping to purchase it for use in large applications, perhaps a cheaper alternative would be preferable. Why not try deep black optical paint, absorptive polyurethane coating or even matte black spray paint or chalkboard paint?

Also keep in mind that Vantablack customers outside the UK may need to apply for a UK Government export license. This typically takes about 4 weeks to process.

Good to know if you are thinking about purchasing or distributing

The reason Vantablack is so prohibitively expensive is simple. It is not a colour, and cannot be bought in a bucket like paint. The blackest black is in fact the result of up to two days of different complicated processes (including extreme heat) which result in the growth of the nanotubes which give Vantablack its light-absorbing properties. The coating must be grown on the substrate, and this procedure is only done in the Surrey Nanosystems lab in the United Kingdom.

The bottom line:

If you are seeking to act as a distributor for Vantablack, you might want to think again. However, they are open to applications for the use of their product across many fields. Anyone hoping to use Vantablack in a project should contact Surrey NanoSystems, as they work closely with clients in order to secure the best outcome for all.

If you wish to act as a manufacturer’s representative then it is possible to send Surrey NanoSystems more information about your company, and your background in your field.


Vantablack’s little sister: The blackest spray paint in the world

There are two different methods for creating the blackest black. The first is the one discussed above, with nanotube forests being grown on a substrate while in a vacuum chamber.  The new addition is Vantablack S-VIS, the second blackest black, which can be applied to substrates using a spray can.

We know what you’re thinking…

Unfortunately, Vantablack S-VIS will not be in an art store any time soon. Like its big brother, S-VIS requires complex vacuum and heat treatment procedures after application to make it work.

Let’s explain:

Vantablack spray paintLike the original coating, the spray is manufactured using carbon nanotubes. Unlike the original, these nanotubes are not aligned, and form an open coral-like structure that is highly efficient at trapping light. Once treated with the necessary vacuum and heat procedures, the S-VIS spray absorbs 99.8% of light, only reflecting 0.2% of the visible spectrum back from the surface.

Spray application opens up many possibilities for Vantablack; all that is required is that the substrate can withstand temperatures of 100-280°C.

 


Endless possibilities for the future

Vantablack clothing

Though it’s not suitable for clothing yet, one day we may get the little blackest dress!

While Vantablack was originally designed for use in space-borne instrumentation, its shock resistance, thermal tolerance and light absorbing properties quickly found many applications across science and technology. In the future the coating may be found in:

  • Wiring microchips
  • Smartphones
  • Architectural lighting

Vantablack paint actually made its space debut aboard the Kent Ridge 1, a low earth orbit microsatellite which was launched in 2015.  The super black coating was used on the satellite’s ‘star tracker’, instrumentation that uses a map of the stars to provide an accurate position reference for the satellite. Using Vantablack improved the star tracker’s accuracy by absorbing stray light entering its sensors, giving it more accurate data from which to work.

And it doesn’t stop there:

The blackest black caused something of a frenzy amongst artists, designers, and all within those fields. Architects, for example, are looking forward to using Vantablack and its heat absorbing properties for building surfaces where heat can be stored and released.

It should be no surprise artists and designers cannot wait to play with the eye-fooling substance. The ability to make the three-dimensional appear as flat as paper could have any number of mind-bending uses, imagine a Vantablack vase holding a vibrant bouquet of flowers!

Applications are also possible in:

  • Camera lenses
  • Automotive industry (who knows, a vantablack car paint might hit the market!?)
  • Telescopes
  • Use in the cinema for a clearer, sharper, darker viewing experience
  • And many more: possibilities are almost limitless!

Why it is not possible to coat everything yet

At this point, Vantablack is not yet applicable on fabric or other softer materials. The carbon nanotube growing process is suitable for stable substrates which can endure heats of 500°C or higher. Even the spray-on S-VIS requires the ability to withstand heats of 100-280°C, though its application method makes it more widely usable.

The miniscule carbon nanotube structures of Vantablack and Vantablack S-VIS require protection from direct contact and mechanical abrasion.

To achieve the dream of a Vantablack-tinted world, we need to make everyday items less melt-able or the blackest black more hardy. Science, now it’s up to you.  If you are interested in more background information, here is “An Inside Look” video (3:44).

 

It gets better: The improved version is even darker than the original

In 2016 Surrey NanoSystems improved upon its own record-breaking black to create even-blacker-than-black. Vantablack Mark II was born.

Where the original absorbs a measly 99,965% of light, the new version is so black its brightness and colour cannot be measured, not even with a spectrometer. The new Vantablack consists of thinner and longer carbon nanotubes than the original coating, allowing greater light absorption and almost zero reflection.

Here is a video of the new improved Vantablack’s absorption being tested with lasers. Spoiler alert – the Vantablack wins:


2 replies
  1. N-Chow
    N-Chow says:

    Dear Coating.co.uk Team, could you provide me any extra info on where I could buy this? ‘ if ‘ it ever would be for sale? And at what kind of price would I have to think?

  2. Coating Expert
    Coating Expert says:

    Dear N-Chow,

    Thank you for your question about Vantablack.

    Surrey NanoSystems Ltd (SNS) is the only manufacturer of Vantablack coatings, and at this time all sales are handled directly by SNS in the United Kingdom (near Brighton). Keep in mind that the original Vantablack paint is incredibly expensive right now and not sold by the paint bucket.

    Just like you we hope it will be available for individual sale soon! But we are still in “the dark” on when, and what the price point will be.

    With kind regards,

    Marieke

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