Making black… blacker

Carbon Nanotubes | Image: BBC NewsHow black is black? As dark as the sky in the middle of the night? As dark as being locked in a room with no windows and no lights? Scientists at Rice University in Houston, Texas, claim to have made something even blacker than that, or anything ever produced before. Just 0.045% of light is reflected, which makes it the darkest material ever created.

The obvious first question is, why? What’s the point in making something really dark, other than to give the professor who did it a few minutes of fame? The big answer is solar energy, because the more energy a solar panel can absorb, the more efficient it will be. As renewable energy is set to become widely used in the 21st century, this could potentially be world-changing if it convinces more people to give up the oil addiction.

So how on Earth did they do it? By using something which is becomingly increasingly important in technology: carbon nanotubes, which are basically tiny rings of carbon atoms. By using carbon, one of the least reflective elements in existence, and by arranging it so it was all jumbled up to reduce reflection even more, only a tiny amount of the light bounced back.

Tennis rackets are already being made stronger by nanotechnology | Image: BBC NewsWatch out for nanotechnology, not just for scientific experiments like this, but for widespread use in our everyday lives over the next few years. Tennis rackets with nanoparticles built in to strengthen them, clothes with nanobots built in, microscopic machines flowing through our bodies to monitor health… they’re not so far in the future as you’d think. Click here for examples of how they are being used already. It’s really cool!

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