Paint It Black – hi-tech edition

I’m sure many of my readers know the Rolling Stones Vietnam-era classic, ‘Paint It Black‘.

I hadn’t been aware that there’s tremendous competition to develop a surface coating that’s more intensely black than anything else.  This is apparently very important for applications ranging from optics (to coat the internal surfaces of cameras, photographic satellites, telescopes, and so on) to camouflage (for use at night, as fake shadows, or to hide features).  Now a British company, Surrey Nanosystems, claims to have developed the world’s blackest material, which can be layered or spray-painted onto almost anything.

Vantablack, first created in 2014, uses “carbon nanotube matrix” to absorb virtually all incident light – and makes three dimensional objects appear two dimensional, as their surface shape becomes virtually invisible.

“It is …  some 17 times less reflective than the super-black paint used for minimizing stray light in the Hubble space telescope,” notes the Newhaven-based company.

It’s been primarily used in the space and defense industries, but Surrey NanoSystems says the the new, sprayable version, Vantablack S-VIS, can be applied at large scale to “virtually any surface” – opening up greater possibilities for use in the commercial sector.

There’s more at the link.

Here’s a BBC report on Vantablack.

Fascinating stuff to bring out the inner geek!



  1. We use a variety of superblack materials in camera design. We have been using Acktar coatings, but they don't perform well off-axis. I'll have to take a look at this. Thanks!

  2. Cool. Interestingly, I once had a horse that you couldn't lead across a black asphalt parking lot. His brain saw black as a deep hole, and wouldn't step on it. He'd balk every time.

  3. I was an amateur telescope maker back about 10 years ago. We wanted a black that made Manson's soul look clean and white. We wanted a black that made Johnny Cash's wardrobe look like Tom Wolfe's brightest suit. Somehow, these jokes just didn't register to the middle school science lab students I was working with (imagine that…. 😉 ), but it was true. The flatter the black, the better the picture out of the bucketscopes.

    Somehow I don't think a spray can of this stuff is in my shopping list at Lowes anytime in the near future, though….

  4. Another reason for this competition is that black is also better at heat transfer (both absorbing and radiating heat)

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