NASA Goddard Space Flight Center scientists have created a new material that is ten times blacker than the blackest black paint in the world. It's made of carbon nanotubes grown on titanium. Why does NASA need this material?
Once it goes through some manufacturing fine-tuning, the new material will be used to coat the guts of cameras and telescopes in space. Right now, these instruments use something called Z306 paint, a pitch black painting that reduces photon contamination by absorbing errant light. According to NASA, this light "has a funny way of ricocheting off instrument components and contaminating measurements."
But Z306 is not black enough: 40% of the data captured by space cameras in some high contrast
scenes—like those used in Earth Science Observations—is unusable because of light contamination. With the new blacker than black coating, this is what will happen:
This improvement simulation is for illustrative purposes only, not a real simulation.
The new material absorbs 99.5 of the light in the tiny gaps between the tubes, practically eliminating the problem. The material is close to final production, and NASA is looking into using it in ORCA, "the Ocean Radiometer for Carbon Assessment, a next-generation instrument that is designed to measure marine photosynthesis." [NASA]