Invisible soldiers

Apparently, stealth technology is reaching further into the aspirations ofUnknown the U.S. Army. After working on ways to generate artificial fog and camouflaged tanks, the Army now wants “super-black” materials to render its stuff virtually invisible. As Danger Room reports,

“In its latest round of solicitations for small businesses, the Army is asking for proposals for super-black material. That is, material so black that it absorbs 99 percent of all light. But it isn’t really black paint, exactly. The plan is to use either an “antireflective coating or surface treatment process for metals” to absorb stray light “in the ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and far-infrared regions.” This, the Army hopes, will boost the quality of high-resolution cameras, while also cooling down sensitive electronics. Or to put it another way: The Army needs the color black to reflect its icy-cold heart.

“Another curious thing is that the program is being run out of the Army’s Program Executive Office Ammunition at the Picatinny Arsenal, a main center for the Pentagon’s experiments in all sorts of weapons: from rifles and tank cannons to directed-energy weapons. But the purpose of the solicitation isn’t much more specific than described. “Simply put, it’s too early yet to speculate on where the technology(s) will go,” Frank Misurelli, an Army spokesman at Picatinny said in a statement provided to Danger Room. ”Possibly in a few months, after an contract has been awarded, more information may become available.”

“But for whatever the Army wants to fade to black, it seems that regular black isn’t good enough. This is because most black paint will absorb only around 90-95 percent of light, with the other 5-10 percent reflected back outwards. For a high-resolution camera, that stray light can bounce back into the lens and interfere with the quality of an image. It’s even a problem for NASA’s ultra-deep-space sensors. In the extreme coldness of space, black paint turns a silver-y color, which increases heat and can interfere with infrared-detecting instruments.”


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