Having already become a ubiquitous part of our mobile-centric daily lives, wireless technologies are now poised to slip inside our bodies. Researchers and companies around the world are designing the next generation of biosensors—implantable microchip-like devices that can monitor a patient’s health and ping doctors on their smartphones or computers if something is amiss. One day, some of these devices could even apply short-term fixes or treat disorders outright.
The major challenge that scientists face is developing a sensor that is both long-lived and biocompatible. The human body is extremely picky about implants, and will quickly reject or react poorly to most materials found in everyday electronics. Even the materials that make peace with the body’s immune system, like those found in pacemakers, are not always ideal. Some require constant maintenance, while others need to be replaced every few days and are inconvenient to install, to say the least.
Blacker than Neo’s leather jacket, blacker than Emperor Palpatine’s black heart, blacker than the mood of Dark City: Nothing is blacker than the thin mesh of 35-nanometer silver wires on a wafer of aluminum oxide unveiled last month at the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics.
The composition was imagined by Evegenii Narimanov, a materials engineer at Purdue University, and then created by Mikhail Noginov, a materials physicist at Norfolk State University. (Narimanov recently made some news when he produced the first electromagnetic black hole, capable of slurping up the light waves that come near it.) The mesh is placed at intervals smaller than the wavelength of the radiation it needs to be absorbed. The new material reflected as little as less than one percent of the sub-infrared, 900-nanometer-wavelength radiation, though Narimanov said the effect would be the same at any wavelength —- including the visible light spectrum —- under other configurations. Narimanov told New Scientist he anticipates the material will find its use in coating stealth fighters to improve their invisibility to radar.