The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center has a team of scientists testing micro and nano technology to use on spacecraft. The goal is to reduce the reflection off the surface of the instruments so that the data does not get polluted by the scattered light. The carbon nanotubes that the team grows have proven to be 10 times better than the NASA Z306 paint, currently used on spacecraft instruments. The nanotubes are also very robust and can be grown on different materials. The team is really close to getting the carbon nanotubes approved for spaceflight.
This video explains what a carbon nanotube is and how nanotechnology will be used on spacecraft instruments to reduce light reflectance. NASA GSFC scientists are able to grow nanotubes that are blacker than the currently used NASA Z306 paint and they are very robust, which allows them to endure launch and the harsh space environment.
The method used by NASA GSFC scientists to grow carbon nanotubes is called catalyst assisted chemical vapor deposition. This animation shows this process of growing carbon nanotubes. They grow on a substrate, which is placed in a tube. Then the tube is heated up to 750C followed by a flow of gas, which contains carbon. Carbon takes a very specific form as it grows and that's how carbon nanotubes are assembled.
The NASA Goddard carbon nanotube samples are grown multi walled and they are oriented straight up and down. This allows them to be more dense thus trapping more light and reducing the reflection factor. This animation shows a section of a single multi walled carbon nanotube spinning 360 degrees.
When light from the Earth or a star hits an instrument or structures inside the instrument, it gets scattered over all angles. A lot of the data gets contaminated. In fact, 40 percent of the data could be unusable. This animation shows the difference in reflection between a telescope using the currently applied Z306 black paint and a telescope using carbon nanotubes.