Vantablack is a material that reflects only 0.04 percent of the light sent its way, sufficiently dark as to be beyond human perception: any folds or other contours that may be present will remain completely invisible under normal lighting.
The creation of Surrey Nanosystems, Vantablack is made from carbon nanotubes, each thinner than a human hair. The UK company believes it has created the darkest material ever. From its press release:
Vantablack is the result of applying Surrey NanoSystems’ patented low-temperature carbon nanotube growth process to the UK Technology Strategy Board’s ‘Space for Growth’ programme, working alongside the National Physical Laboratory and Enersys’ ABSL Space Products division. The manufacture of `super-black` carbon nanotube-based materials has traditionally required high temperatures, preventing their direct application to sensitive electronics or materials with relatively low melting points. This, along with poor adhesion, prevented their application to critical space and air-borne instrumentation. The two year development and test programme was completed in December 2013, during which period Surrey NanoSystems successfully transferred its low-temperature manufacturing process from silicon to aluminium structures and pyroelectric sensors. As part of the programme, qualification to European Cooperation on Space Standardisation (ECSS) standards was also achieved.
Vantablack has the highest thermal conductivity and lowest mass-volume of any material that can be used in high-emissivity applications. It has virtually undetectable levels of outgassing and particle fallout, thus eliminating a key source of contamination in sensitive imaging systems. It withstands launch shock, staging and long-term vibration, and is suitable for coating internal components, such as apertures, baffles, cold shields and Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) –type optical sensors.