Super black

Super black

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Super black is a surface treatment developed at the National Physical Laboratory
National Physical Laboratory, UK
The National Physical Laboratory is the national measurement standards laboratory for the United Kingdom, based at Bushy Park in Teddington, London, England. It is the largest applied physics organisation in the UK.-Description:...

 in the United Kingdom. It reflects
Reflection (physics)
Reflection is the change in direction of a wavefront at an interface between two differentmedia so that the wavefront returns into the medium from which it originated. Common examples include the reflection of light, sound and water waves...

 much less light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

 than the darkest conventional matte black paints available previously.

Conventional black
Black is the color of objects that do not emit or reflect light in any part of the visible spectrum; they absorb all such frequencies of light...

Paint is any liquid, liquefiable, or mastic composition which after application to a substrate in a thin layer is converted to an opaque solid film. One may also consider the digital mimicry thereof...

 reflects about 2.5% of the incident light. Super black absorbs approximately 99.6% of light at normal incidence, and only 0.4% is reflected. At other angles of incidence, super black is even more effective. At an angle of 45°, super black reflects 1/25 as much as black paint.

The technique used for super black is based upon chemically etching
Etching is the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio in the metal...

 a nickel
Nickel is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile...

Phosphorus is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus as a mineral is almost always present in its maximally oxidized state, as inorganic phosphate rocks...

An alloy is a mixture or metallic solid solution composed of two or more elements. Complete solid solution alloys give single solid phase microstructure, while partial solutions give two or more phases that may or may not be homogeneous in distribution, depending on thermal history...


Applications for super black are in specialist optical instruments to reduce 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 micrometres 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 2009, a competitor to the super black material was developed based on carbon nanotubes, that has a relatively flat reflectance in a wide spectral range.