Nanoengineers created blackest-ever black metal

Boston College Physicist Willie J. Padilla and a team from Boston College and Duke Univ. have nanoengineered a material that absorbs all the light that strikes it. How much more black could it be? None more black.
The team designed and engineered a metamaterial that uses tiny geometric surface features to successfully capture the electric and magnetic properties of a microwave to the point of total absorption.

"Three things can happen to light when it hits a material," says Boston College Physicist Willie J. Padilla. "It can be reflected, as in a mirror. It can be transmitted, as with window glass. Or it can be absorbed and turned into heat. This metamaterial has been engineered to ensure that all light is neither reflected nor transmitted, but is turned completely into heat and absorbed. It shows we can design a metamaterial so that at a specific frequency it can absorb all of the photons that fall onto its surface."...

The metamaterial is the first to demonstrate perfect absorption and unlike conventional absorbers it is constructed solely out of metallic elements, giving the material greater flexibility for applications related to the collection and detection of light, such as imaging, says Padilla, an assistant professor of physics.

Link (via Beyond the Beyond<


  1. Could somebody knit me a sweater using that pattern? I get cold easily, and it’d be fun to tell people “It’s a Nano-Sweater.”

  2. That is SOOO METAL!!!

    I can’t wait to make a suit of armor out of this stuff for when why deathmetal band plays out.

  3. The ad on the RSS feed for this was the new Matrix ad campaign…

    “Get In Touch With Your Dark Side”


  4. make it cheap and the film/television production industries will use square miles of it

  5. So, uh, we now have the materials for ultimate solar panels?

    Now we just need a good atmospheric transition and we can start making our orbital powerstations…

  6. @6 – This snapshot was probably taken with an electron microscope, rather than light.

    I’d really love to see this at 1:1.

  7. How about using it to build towers of water for solar thermal power generation? Just set up mirrors to bounce more of the sun’s light onto the towers for electricity and profit.

  8. Unfortunately, it appears that this particular material only exhibits perfect absorption of a narrow range of frequencies. It’s ‘black’ at that wavelength but ‘visible’ (partially reflective) at others. A material that could turn all of sunlight into heat would have to be black at a wide range of frequencies. Still, a pretty amazing achievement.

  9. If you heat it up, will it give all the light back?

    This stuff combined with a thermoelectric module or a Stirling engine might be a decent energy source as the efficiency of devices that turn heat into motion or electricity improves.

  10. @#17: Yep, if you were to heat this body up, it would begin to emit…wait for it…black-body radiation.

  11. Actually the pictures looks copperish in color, while what’s shown above is almost certainly an electron micrograph.

    Not that this isn’t cool (oh it’s damn cool), but it doesn’t work in the visible. The resonance is at 11.5 GHz, so a few orders of magnitude longer wavelength than visible. Although they say in the paper they’ve achieved the same at 94 GHz and 1 THz.

    The design of these devices gives them an inherently narrow resonance (they’re even described in the paper as “narrow-band perfect absorbers,” so you won’t see scaled down versions blacking out all the visible light. They’re also dependent on the angle of incidence.

    Still, cool stuff. Most likely the first people to find these useful will be astronomers.


  12. #22: My thoughts exactly. Before I even finished the second paragraph, I was thinking “monoliths monoliths monoliths Clarke Clarke Clarke oh sweet bejeebus he’s dead noooooo”

  13. Man, it took 7 comments before we got to Hotblack Desiato? Perhaps they have to invent the frictionless surface… or the black button that lights up black when you press it.

  14. great, now that we found the nigredo, can we get to work on the philosopher’s stone already?

  15. yah, ya see dere? we gots to use the trained bug-teria tomakes da stuff since it’s too liddle. Gotsta teach its DNAer

  16. Hey, even before reading the headline, first thing I thought when I saw the picture was “nanoelectric antenna array”. Damn, I’m good. :)

  17. In reply to #27, yes these are different breakthroughs but interestingly similar. Thank you for your post – it is what some commenters misinterpreted this article to mean: light absorption across a wide spectrum.

    I have been expecting the nanotubes progress for a little while now, with my fingers crossed because of its likely application to make big strides in photovoltaic efficiency. Maybe we can skip dicey biofuels and their impact on food altogether if this moves fast enough.

    Unfortunately, I recently read that nanotubes may be highly cancerous, like asbestos. Which makes sense to me when I imagine them in my minds eye.

  18. Ahhh but… how can they see it if it absorbs all light? In fact, how do they even know it’s there? Hmmm….

  19. @ 35
    “how can they see it if it absorbs all light? In fact, how do they even know it’s there? Hmmm….”

    What, it’s a black hole now? Look for an event horizon, I guess ;-D Just don’t get too close.

    “The USAF I bet is interested, can you say stealth coating?”

    Maybe–it would be interesting to see what this material does to radar waves and not just visible light.

    Me, I’d like to see them make an electric guitar body out of this.

  20. So, in the future, we’ll all have black jumpsuits instead? It’s not quite a frou-frou as the silver ones, but I’ll take it.

  21. It shows we can design a metamaterial so that at a specific frequency it can absorb all of the photons that fall onto its surface.

    Hm, where did all the “blue” in the world suddenly go? The sky’s turned green.

  22. The super thing about this is that they took something ordinarily reflective to microwaves and by messing with the shape alone, made it an excellent absorber.

    Imagine if we could do the same thing to boingboing, absorb memes instead of reflecting them?


  23. you know they just did this so they could say “none more black”!

    great comments on this thread yay.

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