Vantablack: The World’s Blackest Black

Vantablack: The World’s Blackest Black
4 minutes read. November 29th, 2019.

The Science Behind Vantablack

Firstly, let’s take a look how it works (the clue is in the name). The acronym VANTA stands for ‘vertically aligned nanotube arrays’ – if that phrase seems a little overawing, allow us to elaborate: Vantablack is more of a coating than a colour. It is made up of a thin film of carbon nanotubes which are applied to an object in a reactor chamber. Light is absorbed (and trapped) within the nanotubes, with any stray light rays also being absorbed by neighbouring tubes.

In terms of application, there are a few hurdles to overcome. Standard Vantablack can only be applied to materials at 400C, though Surrey NanoSystems did announce a spray-on version of the product, which blocks 99.8% of light, in 2017 (though even this version requires conditions of 100C to stand a chance of being applied successfully). As a result of such high thermal requirements, any materials with a lower melting point will have to settle for being painted boring old standard black. And even if the optimum temperature is achieved, it’s still very difficult to successfully apply Vantablack to, well… anything. All of this means that Vantablack is extremely expensive as a result (the average cost of a single sample is circa £300).

Since Vantablack is a coating, it’s technically not a colour at all, a classification which bears semblance to the age-old truth that standard black is not a colour either, but rather ‘the absence of visible light’. This doesn’t mean that black (or Vantablack for that matter) is any less relevant when it comes to colour theory and design rationale, though – which leads us to the million-pound question: how do the two compare visually?

How Effective is Vantablack?

Ordinarily, the scientific issues surrounding its application might lead us to question why we’re even discussing the merits of Vantablack in the first place. But it just so happens that Vantablack is unbelievably good at what it does.

Vantablack incredibly manages to be so much more than standard black – it gives 3D objects a flat appearance due to the total elimination of surface shadows. It’s a complete optical illusion which tricks the human eye into seeing something incredibly deep yet completely depthless at the same time.

Thinking Creative

When it comes to technological potential, Vantablack’s high absorption rate makes it ideal for telescopes, which aim to capture a clearer view of the sky by blocking out as much light as possible.

In more creative matters, Vantablack has already caused a stir in the world of architectural design. In 2018, ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, a building coated in Vantablack and studded with thousands of small lights was unveiled by British architect Asif Khan.
. Understandably, obvious practicality issues meant that the marginally less effective Vantablack spray (which doesn’t contain the nanotube technology) was used to coat the Hyundai Pavilion, although the result is no less impressive, creating the illusion of an imposing, endless void.

Surrey NanoSystems believes that Vantablack’s ability to deceive the eye opens up a whole range of possibilities, most notably the provision of a ‘unique aesthetic for luxury products’. Black, of course, has long been associated with sophistication and mystery – whilst we’ve seen smaller-scale examples of extravagance (such as MCT’s $95,000 watch) , we can only imagine the head-turning impact that a Vantablack Rolls-Royce would offer.


The ability to generate an emotional response is what makes great design so memorable. It makes people think twice and question things. Which is exactly why Vantablack is a great piece design in itself. It’s unfortunate that, due to the licensing issues and practical drawbacks, it looks like we’ll have to spend some more time daydreaming before something that can match (or exceed) Vantablack’s light absorption rate is released as a viable design option. Until then, we’re stuck with Vantablack’s closest rival, Black 3.0, which absorbs a mere 98-99% of light. We suppose that’ll have to do for now...

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Vantablack: The World’s Blackest Black

Paul Hough

Creative Director

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