Super black is a surface treatment developed at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the United Kingdom. It absorbs approximately 99.6% of visible light at normal incidence, while conventional black paint absorbs about 97.5%. At other angles of incidence, super black is even more effective: at an angle of 45°, it absorbs 99.9% of light.
Applications of super black are in specialist optical instruments for reducing unwanted reflections. The disadvantage of this material is its low optical thickness, as it is a surface treatment. As a result, infrared light of a wavelength longer than a few micrometers penetrates through the dark layer and has much higher reflectivity. The reported spectral dependence increases from about 1% at 3 µm to 50% at 20 µm.
In 2011, NASA and the US Army began funding research in the use of nanotube-based super black coatings in sensitive optics. Nanotube-based superblack arrays and coatings have recently become commercially available.
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Part of NASA's Materials Coating Experiment
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Inorganic, thin coating, deposited using vacuum deposition technology