Blackest Black? New Disordered Nanostructured Material

There's a new blackest black in town, thanks to work done in Saudi Arabia using (paradoxically) the exceptionally white scales of the Cyphochilus beetle.

(Blackness via the exceptionally white scales of the Cyphochilus beetle)

ndrea Fratalocchi of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and colleagues suggest that their broadband light absorbing material could open up new approaches to energy-harvesting devices and optical interconnects. The novel material is made of a nanorod attached to a nanosphere. This composite nanomaterial can, on average, absorb 26% more incident light than carbon nanotubes...

The researchers were aware of natural materials that are ultra-white, such as the scales on the Cyphochilus beetle, native to south-east Asia. The whiteness is due to the microscopic photonic crystal structure of the scales. With their nanomaterial the team has inverted this ultra-white property using the concept of chaotic energy harvesting to allow them to design a material that would be as black, if not blacker, than those materials are white. Instead of the nanomaterial being ordered as they might be in a photonic crystal, the surface structure is disordered and offers incident light a random network of ‘pores’ made of infinitely long, metallic waveguides....

Old time science fiction fans recall black coating from Doc Smith's 1942 novel Gray Lensman :

“Well, we have a black coating now that’s ninety-nine percent absorptive, and I don’t need ports or windows. At that, though, one percent reflection would be enough to give me away at a critical time. How’d it be to put a couple of the boys on that job? Have them put a decimal point after the ninety nine and see how many nines they can tack on behind it?”

In the modern era, fans of Gene Wolf's Shadow of the Torturer recall fuligin, and the absolute black from Douglas Adams's novel Restaurant at the Edge of the Universe. Both were published in 1980.

I enjoy collecting "blackest black" stories; take a look for yourself:

  - Femtosecond Laser Pulse Turns Metals Pitch Black (2006)
  - Carbon Nanotube Blackness Blacker Than Black (2008)
  - New Black From NASA Uses Nanotubes (2010)
  - Blacker-Than-Black Corrugated Metamaterials (2011)
  - NASA's Super-Black Now Even Blacker (2011)
  - Army Wants Black Blacker Than Black (2012)
  - Vantablack Is Blacker Than Your Black (2014)

Via Chemistry World.

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