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Songtao Wu


Pitch Black Nanostructured Copper Oxide as an Alternative to Carbon Black for Autonomous Environment


Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) systems are becoming crucial for measuring the distance and creating a point-cloud of the local environment, a critical data for artificial intelligence to enable collision avoidance mechanisms. However, LiDAR utilizes radiation in the near infrared (NIR) region of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is prone to complete absorption by typical dark (such as carbon black) colored objects, leading to loss of timely data points. Till date a very limited number of solutions have been put forward to address it. In this work, we propose nano-crystallites of copper (II) oxide with specific prevalence of crystal facets that create nearly perfect black material at visible wavelengths. The sharp transition of absorbance near 700 nm wavelength light is attributed to the near unity ratio of (-111)/(111)  crystal facets and at a crystal size around 100 Å for (-111) plane. While indistinguishable to carbon black yet same degree of measured blackness (My value 135.5), these nanocrystalline CuO shows 1500% better detectability by LiDAR. Our study paves the way to unconstrained use of dark objects in the future society and infrastructure, a step closer towards fully autonomous operations of vehicles and robots.


Dr. Songtao Wu graduated from University of Minnesota and joined Material Research Department in Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA) in 2010. Currently as Pr. Scientist, his research mainly focuses on the smart functional materials, particularly in the areas of bioinspired materials, nanostructured materials and optical materials.