Could medieval swords have had a secret nanotech ingredient?

In summary, the conversation discusses the use of nanotechnology in consumer products and its potential role in the formation of ancient Damascus blades. The participants also mention a recent Nature paper that found carbon nanotubes and cementite nanowires in a sample of a seventeenth century Damascus sabre, potentially shedding light on the mysterious construction of these blades. The lack of knowledge about nanoscale structures at the time is also noted.
  • #1
In my recent thread, "PF'ers against bad science in journalism", Gokul made a cuutting remark about colloidal silver being labeled a "nanotech" product:

Gokul43201 said:
Hey! I just spent $75 on my last tube of nanotech toothpaste and $155 on my nanoengineered shampoo. Don't go about knocking nanoscience like that! I might take it personally.

I ran into a fascinating follow-up; a recent Nature paper finds that the medieval Damascus blades, whose construction remains a mystery, may owe some of their bizarre properties to carbon nanowires, formed in some unknown metallurgical process! (Disclaimer; the medieval blacksmiths had no clue about the nanoscale structure of their blades, lacking electron microscopes).

Materials: Carbon nanotubes in an ancient Damascus sabre

M. Reibold1,2, P. Paufler1, A. A. Levin1, W. Kochmann1, N. Pätzke1 and D. C. Meyer1

...Here we use high-resolution transmission electron microscopy to examine a sample of Damascus sabre steel from the seventeenth century and find that it contains carbon nanotubes as well as cementite nanowires. This microstructure may offer insight into the beautiful banding pattern of the ultrahigh-carbon steel created from an ancient recipe that was lost long ago.

I can't access the full article from my home computer, but a news story describes it to laypersons:

Nature News said:
Sharpest cut from nanotube sword

Carbon nanotech may have given swords of Damascus their edge.

...Materials researcher Peter Paufler and his colleagues at Dresden University, Germany, have taken electron-microscope pictures of the swords and found that wootz has a microstructure of nano-metre-sized tubes, just like carbon nanotubes used in modern technologies for their lightweight strength.

The tubes were only revealed after a piece of sword was dissolved in hydrochloric acid to remove another microstructure in the swords: nanowires of the mineral cementite.

Wootz's ingredients include iron ores from India that contain transition-metal impurities. It was thought that these impurities helped cementite wires to form, but it wasn't clear how. Paufler thinks carbon nanotubes could be the missing piece of the puzzle.

At high temperatures, the impurities in the Indian ores could have catalysed the growth of nanotubes from carbon in the burning wood and leaves used to make the wootz, Paufler suggests. These tubes could then have filled with cementite to produce the wires in the patterned blades, he says...

Computer science news on
  • #3

Wow, this is really fascinating! It's amazing to think that medieval swords could have had a secret nanotech ingredient all along. It just goes to show how advanced and innovative ancient civilizations were, even without the technology and tools we have today. It's also a reminder of the importance of proper scientific research and not jumping to conclusions or labeling things as "nanotech" without proper evidence and understanding. Thank you for sharing this information and shedding light on the true nature of these medieval swords.

Related to Could medieval swords have had a secret nanotech ingredient?

What is medieval nanotechnology?

Medieval nanotechnology refers to the use of small-scale technology and techniques during the medieval period (5th to 15th centuries) to create or manipulate materials at the nanoscale level. This includes processes such as grinding, mixing, and heating of materials to create new properties.

What materials were used in medieval nanotechnology?

The main materials used in medieval nanotechnology were metals, such as gold, silver, and copper, as well as minerals like clay, limestone, and sand. These materials were manipulated and combined to create new materials with unique properties.

What were the applications of medieval nanotechnology?

Medieval nanotechnology was primarily used for crafting and construction purposes. For example, gold and silver were used to create intricate jewelry and decorative objects, while limestone and clay were used to make bricks and mortar for building structures.

How did medieval people understand nanotechnology without modern technology?

Medieval people did not have a scientific understanding of nanotechnology as we do today. They relied on trial and error and observations to discover and utilize nanoscale properties of materials. They also drew knowledge from traditional practices and techniques passed down through generations.

How does medieval nanotechnology compare to modern nanotechnology?

Medieval nanotechnology was more of a trial and error process, whereas modern nanotechnology is based on scientific research and understanding of the nanoscale. Modern nanotechnology also has more advanced tools and techniques, such as electron microscopes, to manipulate and observe materials at the nanoscale.

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