Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The Darkest Black

I recently ran across several related and very interesting articles dealing with color. Actually, dealing with the absence of color. I find this a fascinating topic, having wonky color vision.

It seems that an artist named Anish Kapoor has received a copyright for the artistic use of what may be the deepest and darkest black ever achieved: a color he calls "Kapoor Black" (also known as "Vantablack" by the British firm Surrey NanoSystems that manufactures it) that absorbs 99.96% of all light that falls upon it.

Vantablack is said to be a black so deep that your brain literally doesn't know how to process it. A professor of color science and technology at Leeds University was quoted in an interview as saying that it is “almost as close to a black hole as we could imagine." It's not even really a traditional paint, per se, but a dense mass of microscopic carbon nanotubes* that are bunched so tightly together that they absorb all but 0.035 percent of visible light. This is a picture of crumpled aluminum foil painted with Vantablack ... the black is so intense that the surface features of the crumpled foil vanish into a deep and even darkness like a hole in the world:

Decorating with Vantablack isn't as easy as running down to the local Home Depot for a can and a few brushes and rollers. The process of making it requires the wear of a gas mask and the use of a special enclosure, because the ultra-fine carbon-based material can be as hazardous as asbestos when inhaled, and it is said to be very expensive to produce. Glidden, Behr, and Benjamin Moore are unlikely to market it any time soon.

What would you do with such a deep and intense black? Astronomers would use it to help calibrate space cameras and telescopes, cutting down on stray light that might interfere with their images. The military could probably use it to coat stealth aircraft and other equipment for use at night. People who suffer from chronic insomnia might paint the walls and ceilings of their bedrooms with it, although they'll probably have a tough time getting their health insurance to pay for it.

I was also reminded of a horror story I read some years ago called "Absolute Ebony," by Felice Picano, about an artist who painted only in shades of black. He kept experimenting with various mixtures in a never-ending search for the very deepest and darkest black - "absolute ebony" - and then finding it ... and what came with it. I don't remember the entire plot of the story, but I do remember it as being very unsettling in a way that Vantablack seems to be.

Vantablack. When it absolutely, positively, has to be the very blackest of black ... and Kim Jong Un's heart isn't available.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* I suppose that's redundant, but just go with me, okay?


eViL pOp TaRt said...

That is amazing! Paint for the photographer who really wants a darkroom!

John Hill said...

Very interesting!

Gonzo Dave said...

I watched a video about it, where a can had been covered. From the way the people were staring at the can, I got the feeling that your eyes can't really focus on it because there isn't enough light to use.

Grand Crapaud said...

This is a great feat of technology!

allenwoodhaven said...

I saw a headline about this but didn't have time to read it. Very interesting. If it was used for night camouflage, would a person even be seen?

Mike said...

This was a very dark post.