Blackest Material Known May Lead to Breakthrough in Energy and Technology

Oct 27, 2015 01:35 PM EDT | By A. M.

A new material that absorbs 98 to 99 percent of light from all angles has been created by å team of scientists in Saudi Arabia.  The King Abdulla University of Science and Technology researchers led by Andrea Fratalocchi developed this blacker than black technology in an effort to promote improved and efficient solar panel technology.

The material, which is 26 percent darker than what was previously considered the blackest material known to man - the carbon nanotubes, was initially inspired by a very white cyphochilus beetle that the researchers observed.  They decided to take the cue from the beetle, which shell has scales that form a photonic crystal structure and have an exceptional capacity to reflect light.  

In the past, carbon nanotubes, which are hollow tubes that are about 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, were created by NASA in an effort to reduce the amount of light that reflects off deep space equipment and improve detection of the most faint and the most distant of light sources. As dark as they are the nanotubes also served as a coolant, radiating heat away from instruments. 

While carbon nanotubes are layered in structure so that light absorption is correlated to the angle at which light hits, this new material has the capacity to absorb up to 99% of light across both visible and infrared spectrum.
The study's findings, published in Nature Nanotechnology, presented a composite nanostructure similar to the beetle's shell patterned as a nanoparticle rod attached to a 30nm nanoparticle sphere forming an uneven surface of disordered gaps with long metallic waveguides. The material is said to disorient perception so that one struggles to comprehend its shape and dimension and is left with a sense of staring into an endless black hole when looking at it.

Because this technology may be applied to various contexts such as dilution into liquid, the researchers believe it can lead to advancement in desalination enterprises.  It is also expected to create breakthroughs in the fibre optic race. 

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