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An Automotive Coating from Space

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Normand Cormier is the North American Classroom Training Manager for Axalta Coating Systems [email protected]. Photo Normand Cormier

Would you be interested in having your vehicle covered with the blackest substance ever created by man?

If we refer to the theory of colors, the black is in fact the absence of color. When light is projected onto a black surface, the majority of the waves that compose it are absorbed. This energy is then transformed into heat. This is why the surface of a black vehicle that is in the sun will become extremely hot.

The Surrey NanoSystems company has succeeded in developing a coating called VantaBlack that absorbs 99.965% of light. The name stands for “Vertically Aligned Nano Tube Array” Black. So it is a network of microscopic carbon tubes that are aligned vertically and that diffuse the light where it ends up being “trapped” in the coating so that the surface no longer emits any reflection.

Originally, this substance was developed for scientific sectors such as astronomy. If you cover the inside of a telescope with this coating, for example, it absorbs the surrounding light sources, making it easier to observe distant stars and planets.

You can see the network of microscopic carbon tubes that capture the light on this coating. Photo Surrey NanoSystems

The interest of the manufacturers

Several automotive manufacturers have approached Surrey NanoSystems to use their product on the exterior of a vehicle. However, the company had always refused before getting a call from BMW to use it on their X6 SUV.

The unique and expressive design of the model convinced the company. The final result is impressive. The finish created by VantaBlack removes any depth or texture from the vehicle, making it appear to be a two-dimensional silhouette.

VantaBlack is already used in the automotive industry for driver assistance systems. The cameras that are part of these systems must often operate in conditions where the light sources are not optimal. Dans les boîtiers de plastique qui recouvrent les caméras, l’intérieur de la section qui protège l’objectif est recouvert de ce revêtement. The use of this finish eliminates indirect light reflections that could distort the interpretation of the images by the software responsible for identifying obstacles in front of the vehicle.

You can’t get more black than this BMW VBX6. Photo BMW

Can I get some?

VantaBlack is difficult to produce and very expensive and has not yet been commercialized for personal applications. For the moment, only certain universities and research centers have the possibility of obtaining samples.

However, it is possible to obtain an extremely deep black for personal applications. Culture Hustle offers a coating that is more like paint and reportedly absorbs 99% of the light. In this case, the approach is different.

The company’s “Black 3.0” is formulated from a resin that has the property of containing more black pigments than other resins on the market. The product can be reduced to water, applied with a brush or spray gun, and it smells like… coffee!

The evolution of technologies is present even in the automotive finishes. But don’t drink any of it!

 

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