Surrey NanoSystems in the UK announced Vantablack, a nanotech material, in 2014 to much fanfare and many Spinal Tap jokes. It became known as one of the blackest-black materials ever created.
At the time, Surrey NanoSystems described Vantablack as "revolutionary in its ability to be applied to lightweight, temperature-sensitive structures such as aluminium whilst absorbing 99.96% of incident radiation, believed to be the highest-ever recorded." None more black.
Surrey has continued to refine Vantablack and even figured out how to make the light-absorbing coating work as a spray. It has since graced everything from wristwatch faces to high-end vehicles.
Surrey NanoSystems is located in the UK. It's not necessarily easy to get your hands on Vantablack. "Only verified companies, research facilities and educational establishments can order a sample of Vantablack," the company says.
One of the best ways to appreciate the startling effect of Vantablack is to see two objects side by side, one of which is normal and the other painted with the material.
Vantablack was initially meant for defense and space sector applications. For example, you might use it in a telescope to help the instrument see very faint stars.
The original Vantablack is made from carbon nanotubes. The material is extremely hydrophobic, so water just gathers on it in droplets or splashes away.
Vantablack isn't the only carbon nanotube material out there. MIT demonstrated the properties of a new CNT material introduced in 2019 by painting a diamond for an art project in partnership with artist-in-residence Diemut Strebe. The coated diamond is on the right. The MIT team said its material reflects even less light than previous materials, making it the new blackest-black material.
This 2020 BMW X6 looks like it was forged out of total darkness. BMW revealed this SUV with a Vantablack paint job for the Frankfurt Motor Show in August 2019. Unfortunately, BMW doesn't have plans to offer this paint scheme to the public.
Here's a look around the back end of the 2020 BMW X6 SUV painted in Vantablack.
A crinkled piece of foil is a great demonstration of Vantablack's properties. You can see how the foil is scrunched up, and yet the painted section just looks blank and featureless.
Swiss watchmaker MCT Watches teamed up with artist Anish Kapoor to create the S1110 Evo Vantablack, described as "the first watch to feature the blackest material ever produced by humankind." The carbon-nanotube paint appears on the dial and on one end of the minute hand, lending the watch an air of mystery as it moves.
Luxury watchmaker H. Moser sure knows how to make an eye-catching wristwatch. This Venturer Concept watch features a Vantablack dial that feels like it absorbs time itself. There's a stark beauty to this approach.
"With neither logo nor indices, the effect is understated. This new dial takes pride of place, making a statement of minimalist luxury which is immediately recognizable," the watchmaker wrote.
Believe it or not, these are two of the same sculpture of a man's head. The one on the left is painted with a spray-on version of Vantablack, making it harder to make out its 3D features.
This sideways view of the Vantablack-painted face sculpture shows how the sculpture appears to be almost 2D from any angle you view it at.
British architect Asif Khan had the brilliant idea to paint a pavilion in Vantablack. The building, sponsored by Hyundai, stood out during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"Filled with a cloud of thousands of gleaming LED lamps, it creates a three dimensional illusion of the universe," Hyundai said in a release. The Hyundai Pavilion received a Bronze Lion award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in 2018.
Gaming company Activision figured out a creative way to connect Vantablack with war game Call of Duty in 2018. For the launch of Black Ops 4, Activision called in Surrey NanoSystems to help create a room with an interior coated in Vantablack. Gamers were able to experience Black Ops 4 in a room where the only light came from the screen, removing all distractions.
UK body spray company Lynx revealed a special one-off Vantablack can for its deodorant in 2015. It would be hard to figure out what it is, except for the Lynx branding. A Lynx marketing video called it "the closest thing most people will ever get to staring into a black hole."
If you're bummed about not being able to order Vantablack paint for your own projects, there is a decent alternative: Black 3.0 from Culture Hustle. The company describes the product as the "blackest and mattest acrylic paint on the planet." It can be applied with a brush and still absorbs up to 99% of visible light. It's not Vantablack, but it's amazing in its own right.