spaceSpace and Physics

This Spray-On Coating Makes Any Object Unbelievably Black


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

Paint It Vantablack. Surrey NanoSystems

Scientists have created a spray-on coating that appears so deeply black, it looks like somebody has cut a hole out of the universe.

The UK-based Surrey NanoSystems developed the original Vantablack material back in 2014. It consists of a nanotube-lined material that can absorb 99.96 percent of incident visible light, meaning it reflects barely any light and is therefore almost impossible to see.


They have since created a spray-on coating, dubbed Vantablack S-VIS, which is able to trap more than 99.8 percent of incident light, allowing the Vantablack to be applied to pretty much any object you desire. This is so dark that if you “shine” a laser pointer at a coated surface, you won’t even see the dot.

The original 2014 material consists of a “forest” of high aspect-ratio carbon nanotubes. These microscopic hollow tubes have walls formed from atom-thick sheets of carbon and are just one-fiftieth of one-millionth of a meter in diameter. Effectively light gets trapped within this “forest”, bouncing from tube to tube.

The paint-like S-VIS spray works on a similar premise, but uses fine nanometer-sized optical cavities instead of nanotubes.

Don't believe your eyes. Two of the researchers with a S-VIS coated object. Surrey NanoSystems


This technology was originally created for aerospace applications such as satellites, although it’s also used for imaging technology and making luxury goods look absolutely awesome. It’s also especially flexible and withstands temperatures up to 100°C (212°F). This spray-on coating makes it even more versatile and easy to apply.

"The original Vantablack coating marked a major milestone, and is fundamental to many companies developing higher-performance equipment," said Ben Jensen of Surrey NanoSystems. "We continue to develop the technology, and the new sprayable version opens-up a whole new range of applications. Vantablack S-VIS is so effective that its performance far outstrips any other known paint or super-black coating – achieving a reflectance of just 0.20 percent. This is significantly less reflective than, for example, the super-black paint used for managing stray-light in the Hubble Space Telescope.”


spaceSpace and Physics
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