MIT engineers have created the ‘blackest black’ ever... by accident


  • Living
  • Wednesday, 09 Oct 2019

What's the blackest thing you've ever seen? Well, it's nothing compared to the €œblackest black€ – which is €œ10 times blacker than anything that has previously been reported€. Photo: 123rf.com

It's a black so dark, some may say it’s blacker than their ex’s heart. Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology unveiled the “blackest black” – which is “10 times blacker than anything that has previously been reported”.

“The material is made from vertically aligned carbon nanotubes, or CNTs – microscopic filaments of carbon, like a fuzzy forest of tiny trees, that the team grew on a surface of chlorine-etched aluminium foil. The foil captures at least 99.995% of any incoming light, making it the blackest material on record,” a statement from MIT said.

A yellow diamond coated in the material appeared to completely disappear – making it look like a dark “void”. When engineers created the material, however, it was completely by accident.

Brian Wardle, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, and MIT postdoc Kehang Cui, now a professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, were “experimenting with ways to grow carbon nanotubes on electrically conducting materials such as aluminium, to boost their electrical and thermal properties” when they were confronted with a problem.

A layer of oxide coats aluminium when it is exposed to air, acting as an insulator and blocking electricity and heat. This inhibits the material’s ability to act as a conductor.

The team soaked the aluminium in saltwater, removing the oxide layer. After going through a detailed process that involved placing aluminium in the oven to remove the layer, engineers found the material’s ability to conduct heat and electricity were improved – with the surprising colour.

“I remember noticing how black it was before growing carbon nanotubes on it, and then after growth, it looked even darker,” Cui said in a statement. “So I thought I should measure the optical reflectance of the sample.”

The material was found to absorb 99.995% of all light – at every angle and with imperfections like bumps or ridges – which is 10 times more than any other known material. Researchers detailed the full results in a study published recently in the journal ACS-Applied Materials.

The material could be used in cameras or telescopes to eliminate unwanted glares, astrophysicist and Nobel laureate John Mather, who was not involved in the experiment, said in a statement. Mather is exploring uses for the material. – Tribune News Service/New York Daily News


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