Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Carbon Nano Tubes: The New Black

The New Black, originally uploaded by ddbsweasel.

New standard ... the existing benchmark of darkness (left) and a sample of the new darkest material made from tiny tubes of carbon / Reuters

The new substance absorbs 99.9% of light. They haven't tested other radiation yet, but it is very impressive for applications like Solar Panels.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Black is the new black in science
By Julie Steenhuysen
US researchers say they have made the darkest material on Earth, a substance so black it absorbs more than 99.9 per cent of light.

Made from tiny tubes of carbon standing on end, this material is almost 30 times darker than a carbon substance used by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology as the current benchmark of blackness.

And the material is close to the long-sought ideal black, which could absorb all colours of light and reflect none.

"All the light that goes in is basically absorbed," said Pulickel Ajayan, who led the research team at Rice University in Houston.

"It is almost pushing the limit of how much light can be absorbed into one material."

The substance has a total reflective index of 0.045 per cent - which is more than three times darker than the nickel-phosphorous alloy that now holds the record as the world's darkest material.

Basic black paint, by comparison, has a reflective index of 5 per cent to 10 per cent.

The researchers are seeking a world's darkest material designation by Guinness World Records.

But their work is likely to yield more than just bragging rights.

Mr Ajayan said the material could be used in solar energy conversion.

"You could think of a material that basically collects all the light that falls into it," he said.

t could also could be used in infrared detection or astronomical observation.

Mr Ajayan, who worked with a team at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, said the material got its blackness from three things.

It is composed of carbon nano-tubes, tiny tubes of tightly rolled carbon that are 400 hundred times smaller than the diameter of a strand of hair. The carbon helps absorb some of the light.

These tubes are standing on end, much like a patch of grass. This arrangement traps light in the tiny gaps between the "blades".

The researchers have also made the surface of this carbon nano-tube carpet irregular and rough to cut down on reflectivity.

"Such a nano-tube array not only reflects light weakly, but also absorbs light strongly," said Shawn-Yu Lin, a professor of physics at Rensselaer, who helped make the substance.

The researchers have tested the material on visible light only. Now they want to see how it fares against infrared and ultraviolet light, and other wavelengths such as radiation used in communications systems.

"If you could make materials that would block these radiations, it could have serious applications for stealth and defence," Mr Ajayan said.

The work was released online last week and will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Nano Letters.

Indian-born Mr Ajayan holds the 2006 Guinness World Record as co-inventor of the smallest brush in the world.