The optical absorption efficiencies of vertically aligned multi-walled (MW)-carbon nanotube (CNT) ensembles are characterized in the 350−7000 nm wavelength range where CNT site densities > 1 × 1011/cm2 are achieved directly on metallic substrates. The site density directly impacts the optical absorption characteristics, and while high-density arrays of CNTs on electrically insulating and non-metallic substrates have been commonly reported, achieving high site-densities on metals has been challenging and remains an area of active research. These absorber ensembles are ultra-thin (<10 μm) and yet they still exhibit a reflectance as low as ∼0.02%, which is 100 times lower than the reference; these characteristics make them potentially attractive for high-sensitivity and high-speed thermal detectors. In addition, the use of a plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition process for the synthesis of the absorbers increases the portfolio of materials that can be integrated with such absorbers due to the potential for reduced synthesis temperatures. The remarkable ruggedness of the absorbers is also demonstrated as they are exposed to high temperatures in an oxidizing ambient environment, making them well-suited for extreme thermal environments encountered in the field, potentially for solar cell applications. Finally, a phenomenological model enables the determinatiom of the extinction coefficients in these nanostructures and the results compare well with experiment.