back to article Can it be true? That I hold here, in my mortal hand, a nugget of PUREST ... BLACK?

British boffins have constructed a light-absorbing nano-material that could improve the accuracy and sensitivity of imaging and optics systems. Researchers at Surrey NanoSystems say that their Vantablack material, built from carbon nanotubes, is capable of absorbing as much as 99.96 per cent of incident radiation to create a …

  1. razorfishsl

    This will make excellent priests socks.

    Rather than them being very very very very dark blue, they can now be very very very black.

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      If this becomes commonplace, it's the sort of thing that could drive Habit Hat (not to be confused with Habitat) out of business

  2. Herby Silver badge

    Soon to be (unfortunately)...

    Patented and locked away so it will take 20 years (or so) to find useful purposes.

    Just sayin'

    1. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      Re: Soon to be (unfortunately)...

      The CD was patented, just waiting to find a use for that as well....

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Soon to be (unfortunately)...

      If something is patented it can't be locked away, since a fundamental purpose of the patent process is publication.

      1. Martin Budden

        Re: Soon to be (unfortunately)...

        If something is patented it can't be locked away, since a fundamental purpose of the patent process is publication.

        Try telling that to Intellectual Ventures.

  3. Long John Brass Silver badge

    Black space craft? Whatever could go wrong

    "It's the weird color-scheme that freaks me. Every time you try to operate one of these weird black controls, which are labeled in black on a black background, a small black light lights up in black to let you know you've done it!" -Zaphod/Mark Wing-Davey (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

    1. MichaelBirks

      Re: Black space craft? Whatever could go wrong

      "You know space, right. It's defining colour is, well, black. And this new Vantablack, right, how it's, well, black, right?" -- Holly

      "Is it 'cause I's black?" -- Vantablack.

      And just for the fanboyism engendered by the title: "Percy Percy Percy Percy Percy Percy!"

      1. Oliver Mayes

        Re: Black space craft? Whatever could go wrong

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

        1. stucs201

          Re: Black space craft? Whatever could go wrong

          "That," he said, "that... is really bad for the eyes."

          It was a ship of classic, simple design, like a flattened salmon, twenty yards long, very clean, very sleek. There was just one remarkable thing about it.

          "It's so... black!" said Ford Prefect. "You can hardly make out its shape... light just seems to fall into it!"

          The blackness of it was so extreme that it was almost impossible to tell how close you were standing to it.

          "Your eyes just slide off it..." said Ford in wonder.

    2. Lodgie

      Re: Black space craft? Whatever could go wrong

      The space craft that belonged to Hotblack Desiato I believe, leader of the the band known as Disaster Area. The ship was programmed to crash into the sun as part of the bands finale.

      1. richardcox13
        Mushroom

        Re: Black space craft? Whatever could go wrong

        > The space craft that belonged to Hotblack Desiato I believe,

        Correct. While he took a year dead (for tax reasons).

        You might need to consider doing the same should you book Disaster Area for the local church fête: governments are likely to be unhappy with the wholesale breach of strategic arms limitation treats.

  4. Captain DaFt

    Looks like the perfect material for painting those fake tunnels on cliff faces! (Beep-beep)

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Trollface

      But that's the well-known AcmeBlack .... and thus I smell a patent war brewing with VantaBlack.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Looks like the perfect material for painting those fake tunnels on cliff faces! (Beep-beep)"

      That only works if the paint also contains Quantathru (TM), designed by scientists at Acme company to permit quantum tunnelling.

      This was almost a wonder-material, but it was later discovered that it only allowed objects of a certain size and shape (such as land-based birds) to tunnel, and not others (e.g. various canine-derived species).

      As a result, a lawsuit was later filed by an Arizona-based resident which also included complaints about other Acme-branded products.

  5. thx1138v2

    This might need more study

    Is throwing darts at the pub while having a pint more scientifically productive than playing shuffleboard at the icehouse while having a longneck? I mean black stuff is just black stuff.

    1. Charles Manning

      Yup

      I'm going to the lab at around 6 for a few pints...

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: This might need more study

      They could have been drinking Guinness?

      (yep, I know it's dark red, but it's called "the black stuff")

    3. Munchausen's proxy

      Re: This might need more study

      See also the cloud chamber. The idea for it was apparently sparked by observation of bubbles in beer at an Ann Arbor restaurant / bar.

  6. Don Jefe

    Groundbreaking

    'This [Vantablack] is not a groundbreaking thing," sniffed professor George Stylios at the school of textiles and design at Heriot-Watt university to the Graun. "It's a progression of a group of scientists, of companies....

    What an asinine thing for someone to say. Of course it's a progression. Everything is a progression. It's not like carbon nanotubes were just falling out of the sky and a random ape descendent, half sloshed on fermented beverages picked them up. Then, taken with their exceptional blackness, invented an alphabet and language so the acrylic packaging for the product would be attractive and informative to the potential buyers from an aerospace sector that suddenly appeared behind him, waving fistfuls of standardized trade tokens, then popped on over to his personal computer to draft a press release.

    What an ass.

    1. Richard Boyce
      Unhappy

      Re: Groundbreaking

      I knew I'd heard of this before. A bit of Googling and I found a reference to some Japanese research from 2009. http://www.wired.com/2009/03/ultrablack/

      So, it's just an advert dressed up as news.

      1. willi0000000

        Re: Groundbreaking

        then there's http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/super-black-material.html from 2011.

        looks like a patent is going to be tough . . . the multi-walled nanotube absorbers have been around for a while.

        i'd also like to see if their absorption spectra go from UV to far-infrared like the boys from Goddard system does.

        1. mccp

          Re: "looks like a patent is going to be tough"

          Probably not.

          They either have a patent already (or imminently) which is why they have made an announcement, or (more likely) they will patent the method of production which doesn't seem to have been included in the publicity.

      2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: Groundbreaking

        Research <> product development.

    2. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Groundbreaking

      "This [Vantablack] is not a groundbreaking thing," sniffed professor George Stylios at the school of textiles and design at Heriot-Watt university to the Graun. "It's a progression of a group of scientists who didn't ask me to play

      FTFY

  7. Hero Protagonist

    Potential 3D applications

    Can it be formed into a slab in the proportions 1:4:9?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Potential 3D applications

      You still would have to give it 0 degrees of freedom.

      (And that would be unamerican)

  8. Duffy Moon

    I reckon that this would be in demand for film/TV lighting purposes, to absorb stray light. That is if they can make it cheaply enough.

  9. Mark 85 Silver badge

    I guess something has to be the "new black" since orange is so last month.

  10. muttley

    And the answer is...

    ... none. None more black.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Evidently, even Vantablack gets pale when it's face to face with Chuck Norris.

  12. Amorous Cowherder

    Smell the Glove!

    If Spinal Tap don't re-release "Smell the Glove" using this for the cover, I'll be very disappointed!

  13. Roger Greenwood
    Pint

    Surely the important thing here . . .

    . . is that yet again beer provided the answer.

    1. Gordon 11

      Re: Surely the important thing here . . .

      ...yet again beer provided the answer.

      Good job that no-one can patent that business process!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That there is pure, concentrated evil. Don't touch it... it's evil.

  15. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Coat

    Isn't that photograph

    Underexposed?

    The one with Hasluck's 'The Book of Photography' in the pocket, thanks.

  16. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Obvious application

    Helicopters!

  17. Alan J. Wylie

    Fulgin?

    Now can I have a fulgin cloak? And a sword, too, please

  18. A Twig
    Coat

    Finally, I've found the perfect material for my bedroom curtains, roll on Saturday morning lie ins!

    How much for a few square yards of the stuff then?

    Nearest Icon I could find to closing curtains...

  19. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Which pub?

    > We raced down to the pub and had a lightbulb moment."

    'cos I want a pint of this "Lightbulb"

  20. Mitoo Bobsworth

    If I coat my car with this...

    ...will it absorb the emissions from a cops radar gun? That WOULD be useful!!

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: If I coat my car with this...

      Good question, what are the frequency absorption details for this black?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: If I coat my car with this...

        Haven't most PDs switched to LIDAR by this point? Which would make this useless since they tend to aim for your plate (which by law MUST be visible AND reflective) and only need a short burst, usually around a blind curve or over a hilltop, to get a speed reading?

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: If I coat my car with this...

      Radar - most likely no. The cops have mostly switched to IR laser guns and this should be perfect for them. Ditto for any laser rangefinder - there will be nothing to return back, so this clearly has some very obvious applications.

      1. Naughtyhorse

        Re: hmmmm

        Radar - most likely no. The cops have mostly switched to IR laser guns and this should be perfect for them. Ditto for any laser rangefinder - there will be nothing to return back, so this clearly has some very obvious applications.

        I think not.

        as a stripling i recall fucking around with phase conjugate mirrors - used in loads of laser applications and 99.96% is no great shakes. (think high energy - if you have 0.04% of the output of a 600W co2 laser heating up a few sq mm of the layer of a mirror a few microns thick... thats a 2 bucket fire right there!)

        reflection being 1/absorption we can say that if 0.04% gets bounced. that's probably enough to be detected pretty easily.

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: hmmmm

          The beam could care less about the color/material your car is painted/made of. As long as the windows are made of safety glass you'll bounce more than enough signal back for an accurate speed reading. Same with your headlamps. You're pushing at least two fairly efficient reflectors in front of you everywhere you go (in your car).

          In movies and various 'tales of urban wisdom' you'll hear people say 'cops aim for the chrome bumper on your car so they can get a better reading'. Obviously, few cars have chrome bumpers these days, but the shiny bumper was never the point. They aim for the bumper because that gives the beam the longest exposure with the vehicle. To the best of my knowledge, 'single reading' systems haven't been used by police since the 1960's. Since that time they average your speed which is, generally, better for you assuming you aren't accelerating at a rate that's going to blow past the limit in a blink anyway :)

    3. croc

      Re: If I coat my car with this...

      You need to get some radar absorbing ablative from most any small air to ground missile produced since the early '70's. About US $350 for two litres. Won't do a damned bit of good against laser guns though. Maybe this will. Hmm... Ablative painted over with this material...

  21. Craigie

    BMW

    How long until we see a prat driving a 'Vantablack' BMW M5?

    1. Naughtyhorse

      Re: BMW

      errr...

      technically if the paintjob absorbs 99.96% of the incident light you wont see anything, you will _not_ see it? see where it isn't?

      </pedant>

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: BMW

        Would it make that much difference? You generally don't see them until they are one linguine behind your rear bumper.

        1. Naughtyhorse

          Re: BMW

          OMG!!!!!1!!1!

          now you will just feel the eerie presence!

          yuk

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BMW

      That's the i8 I didn't see in Frankfurt airport this morning ...

  22. Matt Bradley

    How much more black could this be?

    All very informative stuff, but what we really want to know is: can you make an album sleeve out of it?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46kXH6GGtT0

  23. Woodgie
    Coat

    Not a patch on Infra-Black

    Ask Zaphod.

    (And now I go reading the comments I see I'm not the first. Not that I expected to be.)

  24. mark 63 Silver badge

    A cat followed me home the other day that seemed to be this colour all over except the eyes. Couldnt get a picture of it.

  25. unwarranted triumphalism

    Old News

    E. E. 'Doc' Smith, inventor of space opera, used this stuff for stealth warfare... in 1951.

    So there.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Old News

      And correctly identified that you could be observed by occulting stars.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Old News

        And noted the risk could be mitigated with good star charts (to know where the stars were) and a small ship (to minimize occlusion). I think he put them all together in Gray Lensman and introduced a second one in Second Stage Lensman.

  26. Trevor 3

    Great idea but....

    Fluff isn't black.

    I give it one wash with an accidentally left tissue in a pocket somewhere and it'll be as grey as the rest of anything "black".

  27. Steve I

    I can't see it catching on...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, there's nanotubes egg sausage and nanotubes, that's not got much nanotubes in it.

    I give it forty years.

    That's just about enough time for carbon nanotubes to be cheap enough to get added to every second piece of mass produced tat- that part's coming sooner rather than later- played with for five minutes, thrown away, broken down (repeat many, many times) and the resultant nanotubes from said tat to eventually get into the wider environment...

    ...until we wake up and realise that the nanotubes- whose "real world" behaviour and properties we knew little about before adding them to Furbys with Buckyball Fur (TM)- are a lot more harmful than we thought (Asbestos II: Electric Boogaloo) and that they're literally bloody *everywhere* in the land, sea, environment, our food, etc....

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_nanotubes#Toxicity

    'Course, this is all just speculation- nanotubes might not be a problem at all, if we're lucky. It might be another nanomaterial like antibacterial silver that turns out to be the problem instead!

    http://phys.org/news/2014-01-conflicting-opinions-antibacterial-silver.html

  29. VeganVegan
    Headmaster

    light enters the material, and is absorbed and converted to heat before it can escape

    So that means that "visible light enters the material, is absorbed and converted to heat, and (some/much of it) escapes again as IR light"

    </pedant mode>

    What would be neat would be a material that can remove the heat entirely by conduction, thus minimizing IR emission.

    1. John 62
      Black Helicopters

      Re: light enters the material, and is absorbed and converted to heat before it can escape

      This material is very conductive to heat and is 'grown' on a metal surface (in the photo it's aluminium), so, yes, the heat will have to sink somewhere, but it could be dissipated easily if you have enough surface area on the other side or some other heat sink, like a ground contact, or the jet fuel like in an SR-71.

  30. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Actually probably going to be used to help *see* other objects.

    By lowering the amount of reflected light inside the barrel of telescopes it will lower the error signal hitting the sensor from off axis light sources

    By the name I wonder if they are neighbours of SSTL, who've built quite a few space based small telescopes.

  31. Jonski
    Black Helicopters

    According to The Stones

    I see a red door and I want it painted vantablack

    No colors any more, I want them to turn vantablack

    - Mick Jagger

    (Helicopter icon, because it's... vantablack!)

  32. Tom 13

    What I want to know is

    Is it sufficiently black so that Hollywood can now fill one the EE Doc Smith sequences where a negashpere destroys a planet?

  33. Faceless Man

    It's so black...

    ...even the white bits are black.

    It's going to be a right bugger to keep clean, though.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It doesn't match the curtains ...

    can you get it in any other colours?

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