What’s Blacker Than Black And Can Save The World?

A colleague of mine caught my curiosity when she told me of an article she read about a material that has been created which is blacker than black. So I went digging for it. Now before you judge this as just some tech-geek sciencey stuff you’d rather pass on reading, give me a moment to get to my point. It’s actually quite political. In a way.

Scientists at Rice University and RPI have created a thin, nanotube-laden coating that they say is the darkest material ever made by man. Radiation essentially gets lost in a miniature wilderness of carbon nanotubes that lets light in, then traps it. The coating absorbs 99.9 percent of incoming light; the previous best measured around 99.84 percent.

While they have applied to the Guinness organization for recognition, the work isn’t just about records. A material that efficiently absorbs so much radiation could improve solar power technology and other devices. The work is detailed in a paper in the journal Nano Letters. [source]

Now here’s where it gets interesting…

We told you about a new ultra-black material back in January and guess who was the first group to come knocking on the researchers’ door? The military. It seems military officials are interested in the super-black stuff to help make radar-shedding B-2 stealth bombers even more difficult to spot.

…However, project leader Shawn Yu-Lin is quick to point out that the new black has plenty of potential applications. It could boost the efficiency of today’s solar panels, which are coated with conventional black paint that reflects more than five percent of incoming light. Or a telescope barrel lined with the material could absorb specks of scattered light to provide a darker background against which to spot faint, distant stars. And let’s not forget about 007’s tux. [source]


It always seems that whenever human beings create or invent something, our darkest natures always interfere to utilize it for bad. It’s kind of like Star Wars where “the force” can be used for good or for bad (the dark side). We split the atom; we created the deadliest weapon on Earth. Now we’ve invented something that can actually harness the power of the Sun on a much larger scale than ever before, perhaps making solar energy all the more credible as a viable and sustainable alternative source of energy, and our first instinct is to use this same technology, this same science, to create better weapons of mass destruction.

I use “we” and “us” in the collective sense of the word. The human race “us”; the human race “we”. Because politics aside we are all held accountable in this world for what it is we do; what it is we create, whether in this life or the next one; whether you believe there is one or not.

It seems as the human race advances into the information age our desire to succumb to our darkest and blackest of instincts to do harm, rather than do good, will continue to lead us down that path of self-destruction.

There may be nothing “you”, or “I”, or “we” can do to really stop it.

But it is interesting to watch nonetheless.

Renewable sources pose as sole answer to cut power billJordan Times


As for solar energy and Jordan. It continues to baffle me why an energy-starving country like ours is not moving forward with solar energy. It has been around in some shape or form for several years, mostly on the rooftops of homes and buildings, just never on a big enough scale.

Jordan is at a critical point right now, both when it comes to expensive and scarce energy as well as this phase of large-scale developments. Saving energy in the present may be difficult to do, but the least that can be done is to ensure that the large-scale future developments, that range from the Master Plan to the skyscrapers to the new residential suburbs being built all over the country, abide to new regulations and building codes stipulating the use of solar panels and energy-friendly buildings. At the very least these new developments can sustain some of their energy and lessen the burden on the rest of the country as a whole.

But that’s not going to happen for a variety of reasons to which you can add your own:

A) There is no forward thinking/planning when it comes to Jordan

B) Money in the short run is better, so the government is willing to cut costs for developers at the cost of the tax payer (which only means the government loses in the long run what money it gains right now)

C) The country is politically shackled, meaning we are a country that is dependent on oil imports from neighboring countries and that’s the way the powers that be have decided to go.

D) Nuclear is sexier

etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.


  • What ticks me the most, is where does the light go?! I mean okay 99.9% of the light is absourbed into this black material, but it turns into what after that? Heat?!

  • About military applications always coming first, sure that’s where the majority of R&D money is spent. Even a small country like Jordan spends an obscene amount of its GNP on security.

    One of the theories as to why we haven’t detected intelligent life in the universe is that most civilisations once they are advanced enough inevitably destroy themselves. We’re well on our way.

  • I think that after Israel and North Korea, it is Jordan that spends the highest percentage of its GDP on security.

    I also think that solar energy is an obvious choice for a hot, mostly flat country like Jordan. I mean, what is between Amman and the Iraqi border? Mostly flat desert.

    They have recently started to build a HUGE solar energy plant in the deserts of Arizona in the US, and that is happening because of government tax breaks for companies that produce such energy. I don’t see any reason why Jordan could not do something similar. Does anyone know why this is not a viable option for JO?

  • Military researches are usually the ones who provide technology to the whole world, and the reason is, they have money for R&D, and lot’s of it.
    A lot of the researches that shaped the technology of the world nowadays were in WWII, and after that the cold war. The idea of power for the countries (power is represented by military) makes governments support their researches.
    In Jordan, a very big part of the short term thinking problem, returns to the lack of political parties involvement in shaping the government, every government thinks about saving it’s own ass, so they only care about what is going on now, and they don’t care about what would happen after 3 years, why do they have to do the job, while the next government will profit.
    In case of a government led by political parties, it has a better chance of having long term thinking (but it’s not always this way), as the party members should act upon the parties interest, which is to be in the next government, and not suffer from their problem.
    So years and years of a government throwing it’s problem to the next one, would get the country in the end to a big pile of problems.

  • I would add that the high spending ratio of military to GDP is contributed by the fact that the public finance constructs 45% of the GDP, 55% of the governmental budget is salaries and retirement payments. i.e. 25% are salaries, and definately military, police, security agencies and their retired personnel are much much more than the civil work force. Though, leaping news about the military production are promising and do have a shot to generate earnings hopefully to contribute revenues to the state, or defense budgets atleast.

    Corruption has its toll. I bet many Jordanian students and engineering graduates have many ideas and basic inventions. Al-ghad posted an interview with a guy who transformed a disel heating system to operate by olive waste which two years ago was an environmental problem itself if it was consumed someway. A guy in Jenin as well had a similar product. But no governmental support is there to pick up a smart solution, Government is very focused on business infrastructure at the moment.

    Imagine if some Jordanian wanted to license such a product and go commercial given that some private sector giant was insightful enough to support the initiative from a profitable point of view if not from a patriotic angle for god sake (though practicaly impossible as those are either foriegn investors in Telecom, Banks generating hundreds of millions in profit but believe their staff doesn’t deserve more than an average 6.5% salary increase, or the uglier of the beasts – constructors – where many are growing tumors in the first place as they still mix cement with water on public property and sells for 300% profit), how many agencies and commissions have to accept the new idea and how many fees and taxes will apply?

    Fundemental social change is needed for any progress to take place.

  • I said before And i probably will keep saying it till the day I die,it is the lack of real participatory citizen power sharing coalition government,thats hindering us to solve our dire problems,we no longer can keep our head buried in the sand and thinking that everything will be dandy and rosey.If you come and think of it,weather it is foreign policy or domestic policies ,we will never be able to even to tackle any problem ,let alone energy problem.I have heard and read many articles how the government of Jordan is planing to build nuclear power plant to off set the usage of petroleum based energy ,it is not only a dream but it will be completed environmental disaster waiting to happen,if we decided to go that rout.
    What we need now is Jordanian environmental movement based on real participatory ,responsible parties that can galvanize and mobilize our potential to build a better future for our children ….

  • OK, slightly off topic, but what about wind power? Nas, I think another problem WAS solar power not being cost-efficient. It was soo expensive back in the 80s, but with rising fuel prices in the last few years and advances in solar technology, that’s not an excuse anymore. There is going to come a time when Jordan is not going to be able to import oil b/c the prices will just be too damn high, and hopefully the government will come to its senses before then.

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