Have you ever wondered how the skies would appear in the night if there were to be no stars twinkling above? How would it feel staring into that vast expanse of space, that lightless void hovering above you? Well, so as to help you take a peek at the ‘dark side’, BMW has come out with the world’s blackest car with the help of Surrey NanoSystems, inventors of the Vantablack pigment that has been sprayed onto the vehicle, and in collaboration with the creative agency Levitation 29.
BMW showcased the third-generation of its beastly X6 Sports Utility Coupé, sprayed with VBx2 paint, at the Frankfurt Auto Show that was held in the German financial hub in mid-September this year. So what exactly makes the BMW VBX6 so ‘black’? The original Vantablack material (VANTA is an acronym for ‘vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays’) was made of vertical tubes grown on a substrate, each about 5000 times thinner than a strand of human hair. This would allow the material to absorb about 99.96% of all visible light falling on it, trapping it within and continually deflecting it within the tubes, finally dissipating it in the form of heat. The sprayable VBx2 technology being used on the X6, however, is slightly different, making use of a sponge-like structure instead of the tubes. The pigment is suspended in a carrier solution, which allows it to be sprayed onto much larger areas and more efficiently as well.
The extremely low (about one percent) total hemispherical reflectance of the VBx2 causes the BMW VBX6 to lose its three-dimensional shape to an extent, making it appear almost 2D and really black, akin to staring into a void, while still allowing for a minimal amount of reflection. According to Ben Jensen, who is the person to have invented the Vantablack technology and founded Surrey NanoSystems, using the original Vantablack material would have made it just about impossible for the observer to realize the 3D shape of the vehicle. Using the VBx2 pigment, however, allows for certain aspects of the vehicle, such as its twin highlights and its signature kidney grille, to stand out even more prominently.
The entire idea was conceived as fun yet innovative take on the conventional practice of putting a veil over the car before its grand reveal so as to keep its design features a secret. The almost absolute VBx2 black pigment is supposed to enhance the already intimidating, the gargantuan build of the X6. According to Benjamin Males, Director at Levitation 29, the successful application of the Vantablack technology onto the BMW X6 would only open the doors to projects being conceived on a much grander scale. The sprayable VBx2 has already been used to that extent in the past by Asif Khan, a British architect, who used the technology to spray-paint an entire pavilion at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, held in the South Korean city last year. For the moment, it does not seem like BMW will be rolling out the VBX6 onto the roads, but we can only hope to see more and increasingly innovative uses of the technology by the auto industry in the coming future.