Why is Surrey Nanosystems restricting wider use of Vantablack?

By Souvik Das | Published on Mar 03 2016
Why is Surrey Nanosystems restricting wider use of Vantablack?
HIGHLIGHTS

The idea is to restrict the application to scientist applications, and not lend it to mainstream art. Not right away, at least.

Vantablack, the blackest substance on Earth, is an incredibly powerful material. Created by Surrey Nanosystems in 2014, Vantablack is a composition of nanotubes on aluminium foil. The compound is so black that it absorbs 99.965% of visible light and 99.85% of visible radiation, fooling the eye into seeing a crumpled aluminium foil spread with vantablack as a smooth, black surface.

It is a great scientific feat, but Surrey Nanosystems is wary of spreading its applications, particularly to the field of art. Vantablack’s description by Surrey Nanosystems states that the nature of the compound is such that it qualifies as “dual-use” object under trade laws. Additionally, Vantablack is not regarded as a pigment, restricting its usage scope. Custom clearance, for such a compound, is particularly tricky, and Surrey Nanosystems wants to avoid the hassle and expense of such duties. As a result, the company has lent exclusive rights of usage to Kapoor Studios UK, restricted to experimental implementation in the field of art. This decision, however, has not been accepted well by the arts community.

While many discuss and debate on the instance of a nanotechnology firm given the rights to restrict usage of a product in independent arts, Surrey Nanosystems has a point in hand. The nature of Vantablack is such that it can find wider implementation in more fields than arts - high power imaging, for example. Vantablack can be used to coat the interior structure of a camera around its sensor, limiting the impact of light and increasing the incidence of the desired spectrum on the sensor. This may have a big impact in the field of space exploration imaging, where a limiting black coating is essential to block out incident infrared rays and other radiation from distant nebulae, allowing our telescopes to only absorb specific light rays that we want to study and examine.

While Vantablack has more serious implications than an object of art, there may be a discourse on its applications in art. As of now, the best bet for an artist to get their hands on Vantablack would be to initiate themselves with a product, or an industry associated with scientific work. As of now, the initial license to allow Kapoor Studios UK may work towards realising the association of Vantablack in art. Surrey Nanosystems, like any wary mother, is keeping Vantablack close to itself before it finds much wider commercial application.

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Souvik Das

The one that switches between BMWs and Harbour Line Second Class.

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