News from Notch Consulting, Inc.

January 19, 2008

Working in a Carbon Black Plant

Filed under: Carbon Black — Notch @ 10:31 am

Talking about X number of tons used worldwide, it’s easy to forget where all this carbon black comes from. Here is an interesting essay on the author’s experiences working in a carbon black plant in the late 1970s. It gives new meaning to the phrase getting down to the nitty gritty.

A gallon of loose blacks weighed fractions of an ounce due to the entrapped air. So efficient was it as a coloring agent that a teaspoonfull was enough to completely color one’s skin a brilliant shiny, dark black. And because it was such a fine dust, it leaked out of just the tiniest of holes. We moved it around the plant in pneumatic conveyors: big pipes with big blowers that moved a mixture of loose black and air. Under pressure. Tiny hole in pipe? Little plume of loose black. You walk past, notice a black speck on your skin, wipe it with your hand, and suddenly your whole forearm is black. We had a lot of leaks. We were all black.

Carbon Nanotubes Used to Create Darkest Material on Earth

Filed under: Carbon Black — Notch @ 10:17 am

This week, US researchers announced that they had developed the darkest material on Earth, a substance that is more than 30 times darker than the carbon substance used by the US National Institute of Standards & Technology as the current benchmark of blackness. According to Reuters, the new substance, which absorbs 99.9% of light, is composed of carbon nanotubes standing on end. It has a total reflective index of 0.045%, compared to 5% to 10% for basic black paint.

Pulickel Ajayan, who led the research team at Rice University, said that the material gets its blackness from three factors:

  • It is composed of carbon nanotubes, tiny tubes of tightly rolled carbon that are 400 times smaller than the diameter of a strand of hair. The carbon helps absorb some of the light.
  • These tubes are standing on end, much like a patch of grass. This arrangement traps light in the tiny gaps between the “blades.”
  • The researchers have also made the surface of this carbon nanotube carpet irregular and rough to cut down on reflectivity.

Below is a photo of the new material. The nanotube material is in the center; at the left is the NIST’s reflectance standard; at the right is a piece of glassy carbon.


Photo: Shawn-Yu Lin, RPI via Reuters

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