Black hole paint
March 6, 2016 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Artist Anish Kapoor has been granted exclusive rights to use Vantablack, which is so dark it makes everything look two-dimensional, useful for military and space technolgies, as well as making urinal cakes.

Vantablack isn't pigment, it's a bunch of carbon nanotubes grown in a lab and placed on a surface while using a gas mask and a special chamber, and it takes 400 hours over 4 months to cover a can of body spray.

But don't worry, other artists, there is further research being done to make Nanoblack, which absorbs 99.9% of light (compared to Vantablack's 99.965%).

Vantablack previously.
posted by jeather (54 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
"That," he said, "that... is really bad for the eyes."
It was a ship of classic, simple design, like a flattened salmon, twenty yards long, very clean, very sleek. There was just one remarkable thing about it.
"It's so... black!" said Ford Prefect. "You can hardly make out its shape... light just seems to fall into it!"
posted by aetg at 2:41 PM on March 6, 2016 [87 favorites]




Well, if someone is going to have it might as well be someone who will make good use of it. Exclusivity is kind of a weird concept here though.
posted by Artw at 2:51 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black.

I'm sure Kapoor will put it to good use. Looking forward to the results.
posted by iotic at 2:59 PM on March 6, 2016 [19 favorites]


Ha, just saw the "previously" title and first comment
posted by iotic at 3:00 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I felt a great disturbance among the goth kids, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:07 PM on March 6, 2016 [15 favorites]


Apparently, private individuals can't get samples in the UK because it has military applications.

Boo, say I.
posted by Devonian at 3:12 PM on March 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Carbon nanotubes are like asbestos, not something you want around.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:14 PM on March 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


"It's like, how much more black could this be?"

As black as priests' black socks. If you look closely, Vantablack is just very very very very very very very very dark blue.
posted by Capt. Renault at 3:20 PM on March 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


Obligatory Spinal Tap riff

(On postview - okay, not the first - but I had a link
posted by IndigoJones at 3:22 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Carbon nanotubes are like asbestos

...only with more Technology, so everything will work out fine in the long run. The whole asbestos thing just went away, right?
posted by sneebler at 3:28 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


fugilin!
posted by mwhybark at 3:28 PM on March 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


As black as it is, it's not #000000, which even my monitor can display, so I mean come on
posted by sylvanshine at 3:34 PM on March 6, 2016 [12 favorites]


Pity we can't use that paint for the inside of telescope baffles and tubes. It'd be near ideal. Although, flocking paper is pretty solid for that application, where you can actually apply it. It doesn't work for complex shapes, though.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:36 PM on March 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


As black as priests' black socks. If you look closely, Vantablack is just very very very very very very very very dark blue.

Further examination suggests you are correct.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:38 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Actually, nevermind. It's made of nanotubes? I would bet it's incredibly carcinogenic.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:38 PM on March 6, 2016


"It's like space without the stars."

"Oh, that's poetry!"
posted by teponaztli at 3:39 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


What does it do with the light it's absorbing? Turn it into heat? Re-radiate it as something else, X-rays, UV, IR?
posted by Confess, Fletch at 3:40 PM on March 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


Is Disaster Area licensing it?
posted by Confess, Fletch at 3:41 PM on March 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


I felt a great disturbance among the goth kids, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.


You can't kill that which is already dead.


Also, YOU'RE NOT MY REAL DAD!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:43 PM on March 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Carbon nanotubes are like asbestos, not something you want around.

The rule for toxicity in artists' paints seems to be: If it doesn't kill you immediately, it's totally fine! OSHA, smosha! Egg tempera painters regularly work with powdered compounds of cadmium, lead, cobalt, chromium, antimony, copper, mercury, zinc, nickel, manganese... Fun times. Fun, tumoriffic times.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:34 PM on March 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


Yeah, worked in watercolors for years and OSHA said it was fine. I was diluted.
posted by hal9k at 4:37 PM on March 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


Does 'event horizon blue' come in a nano-tube?
posted by clavdivs at 4:45 PM on March 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Rumor is they're re-doing the cover of Spinal Tap's album as this paint appears to go up to 11.
posted by Bdprtsma at 5:01 PM on March 6, 2016


Bee'swing:

I've heard this before, and what concerns me more than human impact is environmental impact. If it ruins our lungs, what happens when we dump tons of this into our oceans, or rivers? What happens when accidental fires free it as particulate into our atmosphere? I can imagine that animals and perhaps even plant life will find it equally dangerous and toxic.

It's like we're manufacturing moon dust.
posted by constantinescharity at 5:04 PM on March 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


...only with more Technology, so everything will work out fine in the long run. The whole asbestos thing just went away, right?

Except forms of asbestos that were banned involved some measure of environmental contamination that ended up being hazardous. You can use asbestos in many products still like cement plumbing because risks can be managed and the benefits can far outweigh the managed risk.

The key thing is risk mitigation not throwing babies out with bath water.
posted by Talez at 5:19 PM on March 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


If it had to be anyone, I'm glad it was Anish Kapoor. He'll definitely be able to use Black(tm) to the best dramatic effect.
posted by flippant at 5:20 PM on March 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Kapoor is a weenie.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:34 PM on March 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


The stuff brings to mind Niven's idea of spaceship windows acting like two foot wide blind spots while in hyperspace — you know it's there, but only because of the lacuna.

For such a fascinating technical development, the actual visual is (sadly, to me) kinda mundane because of how trivial and common it is in computer graphics, but there's a little tickle of magic to it in some of the videos.
posted by lucidium at 5:39 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


What does it do with the light it's absorbing? Turn it into heat? Re-radiate it as something else, X-rays, UV, IR?
Probably best to keep Tasha Yar away from it.
posted by blueberry at 5:56 PM on March 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


Kapoor is a weenie.

No, no. A bean.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:57 PM on March 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Re-radiate it as something else[?]

Yes, it radiates it as low grade IR, at whatever its surface temperature is. Minus the heat conducted to the substrate, if the coating is warmer than the substrate.
posted by Bruce H. at 6:17 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, as a high school English teacher who has "allusion" (and parody/satire) as terms to be taught, I think it's amazing that what was maybe an improvisational bit of dialogue in a brilliant movie ("none more black") has become such a classic meme. (Although "this goes to 11" is alluded to--if not exactly quoted-- ten times as much.)
posted by kozad at 6:44 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Anish Kapoor has been playing with the effect of ultra-black for years - as a major artist he already pretty much owns the idea, so it's a shame he seems to be being kind of petty about this. Surely there are enough different areas to explore with this material to go around.
I saw one of Kapoor's black works at the museum of modern art in Naples, and it's one of the coolest pieces I've seen. It was in its own room in the gallery, just this void, this abyssal round hole in the floor, like something in a cartoon. It was behind a barrier which kept you a couple of metres away, either to prevent you from falling into this terribly deep hole, or perhaps to help maintain the illusion. Still, it was mesmerizing. When you're just not prepared for the fact that such a black, light-absorbing paint exists it's pretty exciting to see.
posted by Flashman at 6:45 PM on March 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


I would hardly call it art, since an actual company developed it for military use.

Opportunism perhaps? Or lack of ideas in general. Vacancy seems to be the theme of much contemporary art.
posted by Max Power at 7:29 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Harv explained. “They’re in the air, in food and water, everywhere. And there’s rules that these mites are supposed to follow, and those rules are called protocols. And there’s a protocol from way back that says they’re supposed to be good for your lungs. They’re supposed to break down into safe pieces if you breathe one inside of you.” Harv paused at this point, theatrically, to summon forth one more ebon loogie, which Nell guessed must be swimming with safe mite bits.

-Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age
posted by sourwookie at 7:34 PM on March 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


So this is the new black?
posted by Segundus at 7:36 PM on March 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


I found a decent ten minute video by some material science students that Vantablack is a forest of Vertically Aligned carbon NanoTubes, grown in such-and-such a way, and how the array of black tubes trap light via absorption (and reflection deeper into the thicket of tubes for subsequent absorption).
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:39 PM on March 6, 2016 [2 favorites]




Black Black Black Black

#1 !
posted by mannequito at 8:58 PM on March 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is 0.035%. 0.035% more black.
posted by valrus at 9:26 PM on March 6, 2016 [33 favorites]


Anish (not Amish, die autocorrect die!) Kapoor did that huge reflective bean in Chicago, as well as other reflective pieces. With this he'd be going from reflecting everything to reflecting nothing.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 9:42 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]




Big deal. Wile E. Coyote had black hole paint YEARS ago!
posted by briank at 3:20 AM on March 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


Egg tempera painters regularly work with powdered compounds of cadmium, lead, cobalt, chromium, antimony, copper, mercury, zinc, nickel, manganese... Fun times. Fun, tumoriffic times.

Yeah, so I'm in a ceramics class, right? And my teacher has been showing me how to mix my own glaze. That's the way she does it, has been doing it for years. She doesn't believe in store-bought glaze and I mostly agree. But it's not until after I finish compounding something with a alot of manganese in it, giving it the sieve a merry tap here or there, basically just dusting the whole work table with carcinogens, does she say, "Oh, by the way, be careful, that's really toxic stuff." OH REALLY?!?!?!?
posted by lollymccatburglar at 5:35 AM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Vantablack isn't pigment, it's a bunch of carbon nanotubes grown in a lab and placed on a surface

So this Vantablack is really just ... a series of tubes?
posted by dgaicun at 6:30 AM on March 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


But it's not until after I finish compounding something with a alot of manganese in it, giving it the sieve a merry tap here or there, basically just dusting the whole work table with carcinogens, does she say, "Oh, by the way, be careful, that's really toxic stuff."

Manganese is actually not a known carcinogen, so you can rest easy there. No, its danger is neurological impairment.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:02 AM on March 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Inspired by Vantablack, German fashion designers created a similar color for clothing called viperblack.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:28 AM on March 7, 2016


I wonder what Frederik De Wilde thinks of all this - he's a Belgian artist who collaborated directly with scientists at Rice University in Texas to come up with a 'blacker-than-black' colour at least five years ago, using carbon nanotubes. IIRC, he worked with the team that won the Nobel prize for making buckminsterfullerine in the lab back in the '80s (which, funnily enough, is found naturally in soot).

Whatever, Kapoor having exclusive rights to use a material is just a big pile of wank - imagine what art history would look like if one artist at a time had exclusive access to lamp black, vine black, ivory black, Pigment Black 1, Bideford black, Mars black, &c., &c. Er, it would look somewhat less black, obviously, but you take my point!
posted by jack_mo at 7:50 AM on March 7, 2016


It'd look a little something like International Klein Blue.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:58 AM on March 7, 2016


Whatever, Kapoor having exclusive rights to use a material is just a big pile of wank

I don't really see what exactly he could have exclusive rights to.
As far as I can see, Surrey Nanosystems filed a number of patent applications, most of which really didn't go anywhere.

The only one that I could find in a two-minute search that is still pending/valid and that seems to be vaguely related is this method patent. And it doesn't contain the term "black" even once.

With the information given in the links, it is totally unclear, what exactly is protected, what exactly is licensed to the artist and whether whatever was licensed even covers the material. Quite possible that the material in question is not protected at all.

Also, the headline "One Artist Has a Monopoly on the World's Blackest Black Pigment" is quite misleading. Only the patent owner has a monopoly. Mr. Kapoor is just the licensee, and it is not even clear whether he has an exclusive license or what the terms of the license are.


From the article: “This black is like dynamite in the art world,” Furr tells Griffiths and Donovan. “We should be able to use it. It isn't right that it belongs to one man."

But it doesn't belong to Kapoor. It (possibly, we don't even know that) belongs to the patentee (Surrey Nanosystems). Why don't you ask them for the material?
posted by sour cream at 8:25 AM on March 7, 2016


It's probably important to disallow flash photography in the art gallery, as carbon nanotubes are so good at absorbing light that camera flashes cause them to catch fire.

Also, you can make the acoustic equivalent of this stuff with a bunch of coffee-stirrer-type straws and a mug. Just as disorienting in its own way and a lot easier to get your hands on.
posted by NMcCoy at 1:26 AM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, you can make the acoustic equivalent of this stuff with a bunch of coffee-stirrer-type straws and a mug. Just as disorienting in its own way and a lot easier to get your hands on.

Can you explain this further? I want to be disoriented by a bunch of coffee-stirrer-type straws and a mug.
posted by iotic at 4:00 AM on March 9, 2016


Get a few boxes of the straws. Cram them all vertically into a mug in parallel until they're tightly-packed enough to stay put. Put the straws-end of the mug up to your ear. Listen to the abyss, feel like your ear is full of cotton/you're going deaf/there's strange air pressure changes.

If you're the prankish sort, distress your friends by sneaking up behind them and holding the thing near one of their ears.
posted by NMcCoy at 5:39 AM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


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