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Low-Temperature Fabrication Process Yields Superblack Material

NEWHAVEN, England, July 31, 2014 — A novel superblack material can absorb 99.96 percent of incident light. Its developers say the carbon nanotube technology could enhance optical devices like apertures and MEMS sensors.

“It reduces stray light, improving the ability of sensitive telescopes to see the faintest stars, and allows the use of smaller lighter sources in space-borne, black-body calibration systems,” said Ben Jensen, chief technology officer at Surrey NanoSystems Ltd., which created the material.

Surrey NanoSystems' new Vantablack material can absorb 99.96 percent of light. Courtesy of Surrey NanoSystems.

To create the material — called Vantablack — the company developed a new low-temperature carbon nanotube growth process. Developing superblack materials has traditionally required higher temperatures, but the developers said this prevents direct application to sensitive electronics or materials with relatively low melting points like aluminum.

Vantablack can be applied to flat and 3-D structures in precise patterns with submicron resolution. It features levels of outgassing and particle fallout that are virtually undetectable, the developers said, effectively eliminating a source of contamination in sensitive imaging systems.

In addition, the material touts high thermal conductivity and low mass volume, and also withstands launch shock, staging and long-term vibration. It has qualified for use with the European Cooperation on Space Standardization.

The project was supported by the U.K. Technology Strategy Board’s Space for Growth program, the National Physical Laboratory and the Enersys ABSL Space Products division.

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