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Black Blacker Than Vantablack (dezeen.com)
102 points by compilers 19 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 94 comments

I think it would be cool to walk into a room painted entirely with this material. I bet it would be so disorienting that people would fall down and get vertigo. So weird.

It would just be....completely dark? I had this experience when working at a mine at one point, and if you went down one of the tunnels and switched off your headlamp.....it was absolute darkness. Like, we think that our bedroom at night is "completely dark" - but that's usually not true, that's always some source of light, after some adjustment you can see at least faintly. In an underground corridor without any lights at all it was very uncomfortable, it was like completely losing one sense of perception entirely.

That reminds me of the flavor text of this Magic the Gathering Card (https://gatherer.wizards.com/pages/card/details.aspx?multive...)

There's an experience worse than blindness—it's the certainty that your vision is perfect and the horror that there's no world around you to see.

Pilots flying in "hard" instrument conditions also experience this. You can see the interior of the airplane, but everywhere you look outside is exactly the same shade of grey/black/white, and there's no usable data from your sense about the position of the airplane relative to the earth. Passengers who think about this might intellectually get it, but it's quite a different experience when you're looking out the front window and responsible for choosing the correct control inputs. I believe scuba divers diving at night also can experience this.

When night diving, you can at least blow air into your hand then feel which way the bubbles travel. eg "which way is up?"

Unless you have a closed system like special forces usually do

I think they meant an illuminated room, but with absolutely no light being reflected by the wallls/floor/ceiling etc.

So all the visual spatial cues would be missing, despite being illuminated, like being in an infinite space. I could see how that might be disorienting and strange feeling.

Even well-lit caves (or similar environments) can be disorienting. A few years ago I was walking in a sandy-floored lava tube with a flashlight, and the floor was sufficiently uniform and featureless that I didn't have a clear sense of depth perception.

Another time I was flying a radio-controlled glider at the beach on a foggy day. There was a big rock sticking up in the middle of the beach. I thought the glider was closer than the rock, but then suddenly it vanished from sight because it was actually farther away and went behind it. Another flight I thought I was about 20 feet off the ground and then it suddenly struck the sand and slid to a stop.

Flying over water can be dangerous, as it is often impossible to judge distance to the surface, even for experienced pilots,

I've actually worked on blocking all light in one bedroom. This is a great thing when one must sleep during the day.

The one window is thoroughly covered using well fit light blocking material. During daylight there is a very small amount of light the gets in under a door. At night it is utterly black. You may wait as long as you wish for your eyes to adjust; you cannot see your hand in front of your face. Nothing. Activating a smart phone becomes painful.

You can get Black 2.0 (or wait for 3.0) and do it. As long as you're not Anish Kapoor.


It is far easier to block light than absorb it. You can experience that type of absolute darkness with a $10 eye-mask (The new ones that look like tiny bras) from your airport. Your ears will orient you if you let them.

I was thinking about car/plane applications. At first thought, it's "that reflects no light that's a terrible idea". Thinking further, the absolute absence of anything itself stands out from a normal background, day or night. Would be a bit interesting to see.

For some reason having a car that can appear 2 dimensional at times doesn't seem like the best plan to me, unless you have great insurance.

I'm curious... would that car get incredibly hot parked in the sun?

Yes it will head up until the black body radiation equals the incoming solar energy :)

Maybe for a bit, then the paint would melt off. It's not rated for getting wet... or hot.

These things have applications for stealth aircraft as they often absorb radar as well as visible light. But even for visible light, if you're looking at something painted vantablack in broad daylight, you only see a silhouette--much like WWI "Dazzle" camouflage, it's very difficult for the brain to process what you're looking at.

"if you're looking at something painted vantablack in broad daylight, you only see a silhouette"

If you scroll down the linked page, there is a photo of a vantablack BMW taken with a flashlight and a cell phone, and it simply looks like a dull gray when some light is pointed at it:


It seems like common sense to me that if you're looking at a picture on the internet that is staged just so, it is trivial to get all the "black" pixels to be exactly zero, but that doesn't tell you much about the quality of the material or how it would look to a person.

That's very interesting, I was thinking about stealth bombers. Do you think it would have applications in say, military uniforms? I wonder how it compares to digital camo, mirror based camo, etc in regards to detection.

> Do you think it would have applications in say, military uniforms?

During the first gulf war they gave us some jackets that absorbed the wavelengths the night-vision goggles could see so you'd just see a human shaped void which kind of stands out a lot more than a regular person -- not the best of plans.

Carbon nanotubes are similar to asbestos fibers, so it's not something that you'd want to put in a garment.

Rapidly moving lead will kill you faster than asbestos, there might be a few tactical uses for such a garment.

> Rapidly moving lead will kill you faster than asbestos

As will rapidly moving copper, or rapidly moving depleted uranium, or even a rapidly moving wooden stick with a stone point on it. :)

Likely better to put on txtical equipment, such as guns and boots?

That's assuming the military cares about the long term effects.

I asked this exact question last time we were talking about vanta - and several people more knowledgable on stealth than me, said that they would not...

London's tate modern did a similar thing. At open ended black chamber. You blindly inched forwards to the back wall feeling as if you were about to trip over something. Then you turned around and realised with the light coming in the open end it actually wasn't that dark on the way out, its just there was nothing to pick up the light. https://www.studiointernational.com/images/articles/b/balka0...

An almost perfectly black and almost perfectly anechoic chamber with almost zero external sound.

Peaceful or nightmarish?

Wouldn’t a pitch black room achieve the same effect with much less cost/effort? As far as I know the idea of these compounds is to absorb light, but if you get rid of light to begin with then you don’t need them?

You don’t experience black in absolute darkness, more of a very dark static-like fizzling grey. In order to experience the deepest black, you need to contrast it with something lighter.

I guess the main difference would be your ability to see your own body, and the light source.

Darkness is probably more disorienting, but also more familiar.

OK, wise guy.

There's a single bare lightbulb suspended out of reach in the void. The walls feel like ScotchBrite though you can't see them. You aren't wearing any clothes. The room begins to rotate slowly as if it were a large tumble drier, rolling you off your feet. The walls gradually turn red.

Peaceful or nightmarish?

The difference is that you could have a light on in the uberblack room and you wouldn't see the walls.

The last I heard about anechoic chambers, most people can't stay in them for very long, apparently it's incredibly unsettling after a while.

It's really not that bad. Some people find it unsettling, but many find it kind of relaxing. Derek from Veritasium has a good video on it for the interested.


I have been inside a large anechoic chamber and it was very weird experience and it was only a partial anechoic chamber and had a normal floor.


Just need to add lsd

With a sensory deprivation pod in the middle would be interesting

It would probably be similar to one of those sound "clean" rooms. After a while you can hear the fluids in your ear and you will feel quite uneasy.

Imagine it also being anechoic.

Yeah, I'd love to try that out. Imagine waking up in a room painted with that.

How about an anechoic chamber (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXVGIb3bzHI) painted in this stuff?

> Strebe has coated a $2 million (£1.6 million) 16.78-carat natural yellow diamond in the material

Wouldn't it have been smarter to, say, make a glass replica, coat that, and pocket the $2 million diamond?

It's a piece of art - you could reduce the cost in many ways but it's subjective whether you'd be achieving the same thing as it doesn't have any intrinsic value except for how people appreciate it.

I know. My "joke" is that the artist could have used it as a scheme to steal a diamond. Not necessarily implying any foul play though.

There's an old cartoon depicting a man standing outside of a Jeff Koons art show with a table full of inflatable animals and flowers for sale.

A sign says "your friends will never know the difference!"

Banksy did something similar where he sold art in New York for $60 without indicating they were his work. [1] After this was revealed, some of those works that were sold that day went for six figures at auctions.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/video/2013/oct/14/b...

That's kind of an opposite, where they bought something they thought was authentic but not famous, but I take your point.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you launder money.

I mean, it could be the case that the real diamond isn't there at all, and is back safely in some vault.

If the artist claims he did coat the actual diamond, it's still a piece of art, just a different one.

Archimedes solved figuring out for density, there are also other non-destructive tests.

Tests only work if someone is actually going to do them :)

Perhaps they did and are lying about the diamond.

In that case it wouldn't be art but just a demonstration.

Or a different kind of art

There's a great youtube video called "Darker Than Vantablack" that has a cool demo of light reflecting off of different paints, etc; and at the end he revels how he got such a pure black without vantablack or a darker substance. It's neat! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoLEIiza9Bc

The Action Lab! The first time I saw his channel I honestly didn't take the guy too seriously...but he is super creative and has some really cool ideas that most people could do at home if they wanted to.

If you want to see something very black, look at the side of a stack of razor blades or x-acto knife blades. The individual blades are shiny, but the geometry of the stack makes it absorb almost all the light hitting it.

Found a small blog post about it since I was wondering what it looks like: https://erossel.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/beamdump/

Another deep black is a small opening (the only one) into a large, hollow object.


This is, in fact, the same principle behind how Vantablack works!

I love carbon and carbon materials.

Here's an amazing clip showing Vantablack. It's so dark it looks like an optical illusion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fg2x0L4YAuU

And apparently this stuff is blacker!

I just watched that and at the end they state that you can't buy it because it's subject to UK export controls. The Vantablack website confirms this:

> In order to comply with UK export control regulations we are required to verify the identity and credentials of potential clients and the nature of their proposed use of Vantablack. Only verified companies, research facilities and educational establishments can order a sample of Vantablack. The coating is not available to private individuals at this time and we can’t accept orders from private email addresses.

Assuming it isn't because of it's chemical compositions, why would this be controlled?

It presumably has military applications, such as coating stealthy satellites.

An interesting usage example for very black materials (which are required to be effective also at grazing incidence angles) is flocking the insides of amateur telescopes. Not that it's always necessary, but can help in some poor designs where the light beam might reflect off some optical tube elements etc. (which results in a decreased overall contrast).

One of the popular choices these days are adhesive sheets of black velour. Another option is thick dark paint mixed with sawdust.

Quick, before Anish Kapoor finds out.

"It's like, 'how much more black could this be?' and the answer is 'None. None more black.'"


Come on journalists, you say they published it, but you don't link to it. Where is the whitepaper?

Would love to see it! I don't see anything referenced on Prof Wardel's sites yet unfortunately: http://necstlab.mit.edu/publications http://isn.mit.edu/strategic-research-areas

A white paper on ... black.

Does anyone know how stable these coatings are in real life? How easy is it to dust off or wet clean one of those super black coatings? How well would it take daily touching?

Would these coatings be useful in solar panels? Does the energy trapped/absorbed by these CNTs turn into heat and does it transfer easily to the material its applied to?

Going from 99% black to 99.999% black turns out not to represent that much more efficiency. It's the difference between absorbing 99 of 100 joules of energy vs 99.999 of 100 joules of energy; unless the rest of your system is effectively 100% efficient, it may not even be a noticeable change. It is very likely that other engineering concerns, not least of which is price, is going to dominate this question.

The article does mention that it's more durable than vantablack, so perhaps more suitable for a space-based project (if it turns out a really black material is useful for a solar panel of sorts).

More likely to find use in something like optics, or cameras, where removing any and all stray light is desirable to reduce noise.

There are a few uses for radiative heat exchangers, so its possible it could also find use there.

I can't say anything specific to this specific black, but the previous blackest black all had degradation problems which made them unsuitable.

I am concerned with this subject on a daily basis and this is the most civilized and educated discussion I saw until now.

Refreshing, really. Thank you

In a room with the walls coated with vantablack, a vantablack cloak would be an invisibility cloak.

I believe this is the paper in question: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsami.9b08290

More than an order of magnitude lower reflectance compared to VANTABLACK and NIST VANTA

Would the human eye see the difference between this and Vantablack? Even though it's ten times darker I feel like the returns would get smaller and smaller.

Also, what would 100% light absorption look like?

In other words, you have to crank up the light source to be 10x brighter to make it reflect as much as vantablack does.

I think the returns are always there when the improvements are on a log scale like that, assuming you care about darkness in the first place.

In the right environment - the absence of anything. Like a piece was cutout of your vision. Which, to be honest, this resembles as well.

Shine a very powerful laser on it, and yes, the human eye will be able to tell the difference

>Also, what would 100% light absorption look like?

A hole.

I feel like they missed the opportunity to name it None More Black [1].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSkGtW-fQ3s

I'd like one of these to be named fuligin as in The Shadow of the Torturer.

We developed an ultrablack fabric and totally missed that opportunity.

But then people pointed me towards the book when we did an Iama on reddit and what an excellent read!

At least they aren't copper nanotubes ;)

OK I'll get my coat.

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