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Two bronze busts, one has been coated with Vantablack S-VIS.

SBIR to paint it black, secures exclusive Vantablack rights

Surrey NanoSystems has granted exclusive rights to the use of the ultra-black Vantablack S-VIS surface coating to Santa Barbara Infrared (SBIR) of Santa Barbara, CA, for military, aerospace IR/FLIR testing, and simulation markets.

"The broadband absorption of Vantablack coatings, and the highly uniform deposition layer, helps us to create blackbody sources offering extremely high radiometric performance without caveats, which greatly enhancing ease of use," said SBIR President, Steve McHugh.

Initially, SBIR is using Surrey NanoSystems' U.K. facility to apply the Vantablack coating, while establishing a Santa Barbara coating facility this year to serve the North American defense, aerospace, and electro-optical markets.

“We’ll provide coating as a service in the U.S. just as Surrey does in Great Britain. The main advantage of us coating here is that a lot of the components will be ITAR restricted. Shipping from Florida to Santa Barbara is a little easier than shipping from Florida to Surrey, England,” said McHugh.

Surrey NanoSystems' Vantablack is said to be the world's blackest surface coating material for the UV to far infrared (FIR) spectrum. It employs an innovative nanomaterial structure that absorbs virtually all incident light.

Vantablack was developed for space-borne imaging applications and offers what is described as "exceptional IR absorption and excellent thermal, mechanical, and environmental stability." The material was recently applied to equipment deployed on an Earth observation satellite.

“It has applications in blackbodies in addition to cold shields and optical baffling and any other place where you’d want to capture light or emit light or IR light,” said McHugh. “There are other areas that it could be applicable in the automotive fields, in automation and machine vision, in drones, or in agriculture,” said McHugh.

“The drone industry is going to grow into the hyperspectral imaging sector in precision agriculture to help out in maximizing resources more efficiently while increasing yield. The use of cameras plays a huge part of that. The cold shields that go into those IR cameras are part of that, as are the blackbodies required to calibrate them,” added Tony Vengel, Director of Business Development at SBIR.

“We even have a customer that will be able to determine what types of trash are going across a conveyor belt using an IR camera,” said Vengel.

The S-VIS version of Vantablack traps over 99.8% of near- and mid-IR wavelengths hitting its surface with near-perfect Lambertian performance. This absorption is maintained over a wide range of wavelengths and viewing angles, far outstripping conventional black paints and other vacuum-deposited coatings. These characteristics are critical for SBIR’s specialized equipment, where compliance with rigorous U.S. defense standards, long-term stability, and traceable precision are essential attributes.

The active element of Vantablack S-VIS is a functionalized carbon nanotube matrix. The coating process includes pre-processing, a spray-on process, and post-application steps. The process is scalable and suitable for high-volume production on both small and large substrates, and on complex 3D surfaces.

Vantablack S-VIS can be applied to a variety of substrates, with the only major constraint being the ability of the substrate to withstand process temperatures of 100-150°C, making the coating suitable for application onto many popular types of engineering-grade polymers and composite materials.

Since its launch in spring 2016, well over 100 Vantablack S-VIS projects have already been completed, including in space-borne instrumentation and military optical systems.

The agreement with SBIR provides the next platform for the further adoption of the technology.

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