Perfect Optics

Perfect Black
Image from Steve Bowers
Perfectly black aircraft used by the New Daffy display team

Perfect optics is the accepted term for a class of materials with special optical properties. There are three subclasses of perfect optics.

  • Optical superconductors are perfectly transparent; they transmit light without losses due to absorption, reflection or refraction.
  • Superabsorbers, also called superblacks, absorb 100% of incident light and are totally nonreflective. Absorbed energy is typically retransmitted in some other form (i.e. electricity or vibration).
  • Superreflectors are perfect mirrors that reflect 100% of incident light.
All perfect optics have limited operational ranges. Superabsorbers can only absorb 100% of certain wavelengths, superreflectors only reflect 100% of certain frequencies, and so on. Only the most advanced perfect optics — namely those at the godtech level — exhibit perfect optical qualities over more than 40% of the EM spectrum. Most perfect optics are limited to a few adjacent frequencies. Designers consider this property a valuable feature rather than a flaw because it allows for fine-tuning of the material's performance, especially when different perfect optical traits can be engineered into the same substance.

Perfect optics have a wide variety of applications. Fiber optic cables made of an optical superconductor and sheathed in a superreflector can transmit light over vast distances with no signal loss. Superabsorbers are the preferred materials for photovoltaic panels. Thermal insulation benefits greatly from perfect optics that are optimized for the infrared band; a layer of superreflector can keep heat in while a layer of superabsorber can bleed away excess heat. Superreflectors in the gamma ray and x-ray bands are excellent radiation shields. Military grade superblacks are optimized to absorb the RF wavelengths most commonly used in radar scanning. Hyperglass (an optical superconductor of visible light and a superabsorber of ultraviolet) is a common window material throughout the Civilized Galaxy. Perfect optics even have purely decorative uses. Brightcloth, a commonly available fabric, is a superabsorber of high- frequency microwaves and a superreflector of a single wavelength of visible light. Absorbed microwaves are re-radiated in the same frequency that the cloth superreflects, which results in a glow brighter than the ambient light. Different varieties of brightcloth glow in different colors.
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Development Notes
Text by Michael Walton
Initially published on 02 May 2006.