'Super black' coating to revolutionise aerospace industry?

UK firm Surrey NanoSystems has utilised its know-how in nanotechnology processing to deposit the world's blackest material on lightweight, temperature-sensitive substrates.

Developed in collaboration with the UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and EnerSys' ABSL Space Products division, the new 'super black' coating can be applied to optical instruments for space applications to reduce reflections and increase sensitivity.

The company claims it sets a new record for the lowest reflectance in the infrared spectrum on materials such as aluminium, with a total hemispherical reflectance of less than 0.15% across the mid-infrared wavelength region.

"The super black material has been extensively tested and characterised by our partners NPL and ABSL," said Surrey NanoSystems' chief technical officer, Ben Jensen. "We now have a well defined and highly repeatable process for making super black coatings and are in discussions with a number of companies about applying it on commercial projects, as its combination of superior performance and European heritage simplifies the procurement process."

The material was manufactured using Surrey NanoSystems' proprietary low temperature carbon nanotube synthesis process, which can deposit vertically aligned nanotube arrays precisely and repeatably on a range of temperature-sensitive, lightweight materials that are important to terrestrial, airborne and space applications.

Other carbon nanotube fabrication processes usually require very high temperatures in the region of 750°C, which can demand substrates made from thermally stable, heavier and costlier materials such as silicon, titanium or stainless steel. For flexibility of application, Surrey NanoSystems' process can also deposit coatings on either flat or 3D structures, and in precise patterns.

Laura Hopperton

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