Rensselaer Research Review Spring 2008
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Scanning electron micrograph
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The new darkest manmade material, with its 0.045 % reflectance (center), is noticeably darker than the 1.4% NIST reflectance standard (left)
and a piece of glassy carbon (right). This photo was taken under a flash light illumination.
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The new darkest manmade material exhibits a 0.045 % reflectance
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Creating a Super-Dark Material

“The low-density aligned nanotube sample makes an ideal candidate for creating such a super dark material because it allows one to engineer the optical properties by controlling the dimensions and periodicities of the nanotubes,” said Pulickel Ajayan, the Anderson Professor of Engineering at Rice University in Houston, who worked on the project when he was a member of the Rensselaer faculty.

The research team tested the array over a broad range of visible wavelengths of light, and showed that the nanotube array’s total reflectance remains constant.

“It’s also interesting to note that the reflectance of our nanotube array is two orders of magnitude lower than that of the glassy carbon, which is remarkable because both samples are made up of the same element — carbon,” said Lin.

This discovery could lead to applications in areas such as solar energy conversion, thermalphotovoltaic electricity generation, infrared detection, and astronomical observation.

Contributors

Other researchers contributing to this project and listed authors of the paper include Rensselaer physics graduate student Zu-Po Yang; Rice postdoctoral research associate Lijie Ci; and Rensselaer senior research scientist James Bur.

The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences and the Focus Center New York for Interconnects.

Lin’s research was conducted as part of the Future Chips Constellation at Rensselaer, which focuses on innovations in materials and devices, in solid state and smart lighting, and applications such as sensing, communications, and biotechnology.

A new concept in academia, Rensselaer Constellations are led by outstanding faculty in fields of strategic importance. Each constellation is focused on a specific research area and comprises a multidisciplinary mix of senior and junior faculty, as well as postdoctoral researchers and graduate students.

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