Black to the future — Vantablack!
Black holes on Earth
Light is appreciated only if darkness is experienced, which makes darkness as much essential as light itself. They form the 2 sides of a coin after all. However, what would be the level of appreciation for absolute darkness? Beyond measure. So much that appreciation becomes fascination.
Absolute darkness has been a matter of interest for years now, to say the least. And the moment that term is mentioned, all thought processes converge to black holes and the mystery surrounding them. Their craze never ceases to persist, and amplifies further whenever the possibility of absolute darkness on earth comes into discussion. Who wouldn’t get enthralled by the presence of such a perfect absorbing substance?
Early attempts to creating absolute darkness
National Physical Laboratory, having embarked on a journey to attain absolute darkness, arrived at Super Black. Based on chemical etching of a nickel-phosphorus alloy, this material could absorb up-to 99.9% of light at an angle of incidence of 45 degrees. However, due to unavailability of a large spectral range, this fell out to a similar substance with different fundamentals.
Emergence of Vantablack
Vantablack, a product proposed in 2009 by Surrey Nanosystems, can absorb 99.965% of light. Consequential of its wider spectral layer and lower reluctance, it remains to be the closest that earth has gotten to absolute darkness. Abbreviated as Vertically Aligned Nano Tube Array, Vantablack is an array of carbon nanotubes grown together. The underlying physics of Vantablack is very much analogous to a man wandering in a dense forest, getting lost forever.
When light strikes the surface, it undergoes reflections and deflections one too many within that it never comes out eventually. It isn’t entirely lost, because Law of Conservation of Energy ensures an exit route by means of heat energy. But the visibility factor associated with it gets lost, thus the light is said to be virtually ‘absorbed’. The thicket of tubes can be grown even on materials that cannot combat soaring temperatures. This makes Vantablack paramount to other contemporary materials like the aforementioned Super Black and another one developed along the same lines by NASA.
Vantablack is like the dream in which one gets engulfed in an ocean of darkness and traverses in nothingness. We all have had one of such dream. Unlike these dreams, it is resistant to extreme shock and mechanical vibrations. Good for us, because had the dream been a nightmare, resistance to mechanical vibrations wouldn’t have helped.
Understandably and reasonably, applications are bound to be aplenty for a substance as enticing as Vantablack. It finds applications in the fields of astronomy, solar power technology and military, and promises to be used in many more fields in the near future merely by virtue of its exceptional properties.
Night is the darkest just before the dawn. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.
Source: Wikipedia, Surrey Nanosystems, Future Timeline