None More Black?

Jonathan Strickland


We joke on Fw:Thinking that the future will be made out of carbon nanotubes. Based on the numerous qualities it can have it really does seem like a miracle material. One of those materials is that it can be more black than any other black thing we can produce.

A UK company called Surrey NanoSystems has produced a product called Vantablack from carbon nanotubes. It can absorb 99.96% of the light that hits it. The incredibly low reflectivity means this stuff looks pure black even in direct sunlight.

Okay, so what's it good for, apart from the re-release of Spinal Tap's Smell the Glove? For one thing, it could be an incredibly useful material for telescopes and other instruments. The low reflectivity cuts down on the possibility that these instruments will pick up stray light. We can make more sensitive instruments that have a low margin of error. Better science!

The major breakthrough that Surry NanoSystems helmed was that the company discovered how to apply Vantablack using low-temperature methods. Previously, companies relied on high-temperature carbon nanotube growth processes, which aren't suitable for many applications. The high temperatures are too severe for delicate electronics or stuff that has a low melting point. With the low-temperature approach, the company has opened up a host of potential applications.

We at Fw:Thinking are now taking bets on what carbon nanotubes will be able to do next. I'm leaning toward "plan a lovely dinner for 12 people at a popular restaurant."