Nanotech researchers create darkest man-made material

Carpet of carbon nanotubes could be used for solar energy or telescopes

Nanotechnology researchers have built the darkest material ever made by man.

The material, a thin carpet of tiny hollow tubes of pure carbon vertically aligned like packaged spaghetti, absorbs more than 99.9% of light, according to researchers from Rice University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The nanotech-based material, which looks like a thin piece of black paper, could be used for solar energy converters, infrared detection and astronomical observation. The secret to the material's darkness lies in the way the tubes are loosely packed together. Researchers from Rice University noted that light is trapped in the spaces between the tubes.

Scientists from the two schools worked together on the project, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Sciences and the Focus Center New York for Interconnects.

"It is a fascinating technology, and this discovery will allow us to increase the absorption efficiency of light, as well as the overall radiation-to-electricity efficiency of solar energy conservation," said Shawn-Yu Lin, professor of physics at Rensselaer, in a statement. "The key to this discovery was finding how to create a long, extremely porous vertically-aligned carbon nanotube array with certain surface randomness, therefore minimizing reflection and maximizing absorption simultaneously."

Every material - water, plastic or even rocks - reflects some a certain amount of light. Basic black paint reflects 5% to 10%, for instance - or 100 times more light than the nanotube carpet. Researchers at Rensselaer noted that scientists have long tried to create a material that would absorb all the colors that make up light, while reflecting none. They have not been able to create a material that didn't reflect any light at all. Before this latest advancement, the darkest manmade material reflected 0.16% to 0.18%.

This new nanotech-based material has a total reflective index of 0.045%, which is more than three times darker than the previous record, which used a film deposition of nickel-phosphorous alloy, according to scientists at Rensselaer.

"The loosely-packed forest of carbon nanotubes, which is full of nanoscale gaps and holes to collect and trap light, is what gives this material its unique properties," said Lin. "Such a nanotube array not only reflects light weakly, but also absorbs light strongly. These combined features make it an ideal candidate for one day realizing a super black object."

The researchers have applied for a Guinness World Record recognition.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?