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

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?