When Spinal Tap issue their next collectors edition of Smell The Glove, they should do so in a case made of Vantablack: the new darkest material in the world. Unfortunately that would pose a philosophical question.
Vantablack is so dark because it absorbs 99.965 percent of the visible radiation spectrum. The name comes from Vertically Aligned NanoTube Arrays, which neatly describes how it works.
It’s made up of carbon nanotubes, each made of a rolled up sheet of carbon that’s just one atom thick. Vantablack is effectively grown as a “forest” of vertical tubes, albeit in a perfectly aligned and spaced grid.
Despite the surface being “covered” by the forest of tubes, the air between the tubes actually makes up around 99.5 percent of the space. That not only makes Vantablack incredibly light, but is also the basis of how it works. Whenever external light hits Vantablack, a tiny proportion is reflected back from the tips of the tubes, but the rest of it begins to be bounced back and forth between the vertical surfaces of the tubes, a process that continues until it is turned into heat.
The picture above demonstrates just how black it is. It’s a sheet of aluminum foil partly coated in Vantablack. The black section is just as crumpled as the rest of the sheet, but appears smooth because it is too dark to see the creases.
The controversy comes from the fact that creators Surrey NanoSystems have given an exclusive license to a British studio for using it in art. However, it’s not applying such exclusivity for commercial purposes such as in a promotional video for a can of aerosol spray:
Which of course gives rise to the question that would arise if Nigel Tufnel and company (Spinal Tap) discovered that their album cover could in fact be more black: Is It Art?