A team of scientists has created what they claim is the blackest material ever produced by human hands, which absorbs virtually all of the light that hits its surface.
The new material, developed by researchers from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulla University of Science and Technology, is built up using carbon nanotubes to help absorb the light. In fact, it’s made from a series of small nanoparticle spheres, each of which has a nano-cylinder resting on top of it.
The resulting surface is able to absorb 98 to 99 percent of light in the spectrum between 400 and 1,400nm. It achieves that regardless of the angle and polarization at which the light hits it. While other materials have been shown to absorb more light at specific points in the spectrum, this material absorbs more across a wider range—managing to absorb 26 percent more light than any other known material. The research is published in Nature Nanotechnology.
Weirdly, the inspiration for the new material came from a... white cyphochilus beetle. The beetle features scales with a complex crystalline structure that reflects light incredibly effectively; the team tried to invert that structure to absorb as much light as possible. The resulting nanoparticles surface, then, creates a series of random pits and waveguides that suck the light in and then stop it from reflecting out.
While it’s a neat achievement, the team behind it also points out that the blackest of materials can in theory be put to great use in harvesting light for solar energy collectors or be used to create ultra-efficient optical connections.