I can’t see you – Vantablack® S-VIS at the Science Museum

March 01 2016 --- The broad applicability of Vantablack® S-VIS is now available for all to see (or not) at the Science Museum in London. The spray-on version of Surrey NanoSystems’ Vantablack carbon nanotube (CNT) coating traps more than 99.8% of incident light, making it virtually impossible to see.

Vantablack’s surreal effect on the eye has been demonstrated on a bust of the BBC’s One Show presenter, Marty Jopson. Coating the 3D bust with nanostructured Vantablack makes it appear as a head-shaped black-hole when viewed from the front, though the presenter’s forehead, nose and moustache re-appear when viewed in profile. This effect results from the coating absorbing almost all incident light, preventing the observer from picking-out any surface details or features.

Vantablack was originally developed for satellite-borne instrumentation, where the lowest reflectivity across a broad range of the electromagnetic spectrum is required for optimal performance. Recognised as the blackest man-made material, it absorbs an incredible 99.965% of incident visible light. Vantablack S-VIS was developed to avoid the need for chemical vapour deposition (CVD) to apply the nanostructured material, whilst at the same time giving similarly excellent performance characteristics; in fact, Vantablack S-VIS is only bettered by Vantablack for blackness, but is more easily applied to complex surfaces. Both coatings work by providing optical pathways that result in incident light undergoing multiple internal reflections before being absorbed. This characteristic allows the sensitivity of optical systems and spectrometers to be improved, and also gives rise to the aesthetic effects so clearly demonstrated by the Museum’s exhibit.

Commenting on the display, Philippa Moss of the Science Museum said ““It's great to see something so small, engage the interest of so many people. We love for our visitors to ask questions and find out more about science and the Vantablack display has been a really popular talking point. I think we’ve been just as captivated by it ourselves actually.”

"The original Vantablack coating marked a major milestone, and is fundamental to many companies developing higher-performance equipment," says 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%. This is significantly less reflective than, for example, the super-black paint used for managing stray-light in the Hubble Space Telescope”.

The busts will be on display at the Science Museum until the 9th of June 2016. To find out more, visit

About Surrey NanoSystems

Surrey NanoSystems combines the best of British ingenuity and materials science for use in the development, growth and commercialisation of strategically important nanomaterials, and particularly in the development and commercialisation of super-black coatings under the brand Vantablack®.

The company was founded in 2006 as a spinout from the University of Surrey, and is backed by some of the UK’s most successful IP-based investors including IP Group PLC, Octopus Ventures, New Wave Ventures and Parkwalk Advisors.

Based in East Sussex, the company operates a modern cleanroom based nanomaterials research and production facility, with capability to grow nanomaterial and nanocatalysts using a range of proprietary plasma systems. As well as the ability to grow nanomaterials, the company has a very advanced capability in nanostructure characterisation and analysis.

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