Scientists Invent the Blackest Material Known to Man


A National Institute of Standards and Technology reflectance standard (left), a sample of the new darkest material (center), and a piece of glassy carbon (right), taken under a flash light illumination are seen in an undated handout photo.
Photo: Shawn-Yu Lin/Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Scientists have just created the "blackest" material there is:

Made from tiny tubes of carbon standing on end, this material is almost 30 times darker than a carbon substance used by the U.S. 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.

"All the light that goes in is basically absorbed," Pulickel Ajayan, who led the research team at Rice University in Houston, said in a telephone interview. "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 percent -- 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 percent to 10 percent.

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