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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Darkest material on earth created

US researchers have made the darkest material on Earth, a substance so black it absorbs more than 99.9% 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 colors of light and reflect none. The substance has a total reflective index of 0.045% - 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% to 10%.

The researchers are seeking a world's darkest material designation by Guinness World Records. But their work will likely yield more than just bragging rights. It could also could be used in infrared detection or astronomical observation. 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. 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.

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