Black Material That Absorbs Light Across Multiple Wavelength Bands

The team of engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., have produced a material that absorbs on average more than 99 percent of the ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and far-infrared light that hits it a development that promises to open new frontiers in space technology. The nanotech-based coating is a thin layer of multi-walled carbon nanotubes, tiny hollow tubes made of pure carbon about 10,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair. They are positioned vertically on various substrate materials much like a shag rug. The team has grown the nanotubes on silicon, silicon nitride, titanium, and stainless steel, materials commonly used in space-based scientific instruments.The tests indicate that the nanotube material is especially useful  for a variety of spaceflight applications where observing in multiple wavelength bands is important to scientific discovery. 

According to John Hagopian, who is leading the effort involving 10 Goddard technologists, if used in detectors and other instrument components, the technology would allow scientists to gather hard to obtain measurements of objects so distant in the universe that astronomers no longer can see them in visible light or those in high contrast areas, including planets in orbit around other stars. Black materials also serve another important function on spacecraft instruments, particularly infrared sensing instruments. To prevent the black paints from losing their absorption and radiative properties at long wavelengths, instrument developers currently use epoxies loaded with conductive metals to create a black coating.