In addition, the tubes are meshed together at the top to create an uneven surface that better scatters the light.
The ability of the carbon nanotube array to absorb light could be helpful to the booming field of solar energy, Ajayan noted.
The blackness could soak up nearly all the sunlight shined on it, making the light available for conversion to electricity. The trick would be retaining potential energy by avoiding loss from radiation or during the conversion process.
"An absorber is one thing," Ajayan said. "Making a device is a further [challenge]. But certainly, it does give you an opportunity to have at least one part of this device more efficient than it used to be."
Ajayan also reported interest from artists who may want to incorporate the blackest black into their works.
"People are very curious," he noted. "People have seen black objects, and somebody says this is blacker than that. It's a tough thing to comprehend."
Dark Matter Clues?
Most of the mass in the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious substance that does not absorb, give off, or reflect any visible light. The nature of this substance is one the greatest unknowns in science.
(Related news: "Dark Matter Mapped in 3-D, Scientists Report [January 8, 2007].)
While the new material is "very clever," it sheds no light on the mysterious nature of dark matter, according to Richard Massey, a dark matter expert at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
"This new material absorbs all light without reemitting/reflecting any—hence no light reaches us from it, and it appears dark," he said in an email.
By contrast "astronomers' dark matter absorbs no light," Massey said. Instead scientists think light passes straight through it, he explained, so the matter has no light to emit or reflect.
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