A new technique that makes a surface completely nonreflective could improve solar panels and even home lighting systems.
You know the blinding glare that comes when direct sunlight hits a piece of metal? Now researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have created the opposite: a material that reflects virtually no light. Scientists have been looking to reduce reflection for years, because in many components that reflected light is wasted. The new discovery uses “oblique-angle deposition” to attach silica nanorods to a thin film at a precise 45 degree angle. From the side it looks like the blades of grass on a lawn that have slightly bent. At that angle, light from all wavelengths and directions gets captured by the new material, which has a reflective index close to that of air. Potential uses: think solar panels, where every bit of light that gets reflected is lost energy. The discovery could also help the development of a whole new range of smart lighting. By controlling basic properties such as color, temperature, spectrum and intensity to a new degree, home lighting could be adjusted to better fit the sleep-wake cycle. And cars could communicate with each other using ultrafast pulses imperceptible to the human eye.