‘Indian craftsmen, artisans used nanotech 2000 yrs ago’

via PTI published on January 6, 2008

Visakhapatnam : Indian craftsmen and artisans used nanotechnology extensively about 2000 years ago to make weapons and long lasting cave paintings, a Nobel laureate of Chemistry said here.

However, the craftsmen were completely unaware that they were practising carbon nano-techniques that are the most sought after in the current age.

Citing examples of the famous Damascus blades used in the famous sword of Tipu Sultan and Ajanta Paintings, Nobel laureate Robert Curl Jr. said studies have found existence of carbon nano particles in both.

On the sword scientists found carbon nanotubes, cylindrical arrangements of carbon atoms first discovered in 1991 and now made in laboratories all over the world.

“Our ancestors have been unwittingly using the technology for over 2,000 years and carbon nano for about 500 years. Carbon nanotechnology is much older than carbon nanoscience,” Curl said at the ongoing 95th Indian Science Congress here.

The 74-year-old scientist from the US shared the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Richard Smalley and Harold Kroto for the discovery of the carbon cage compounds, known as fullerenes.

Indian craftsmen used unique smelting techniques to manufacture the Damascus blades which led to nanotisation giving them a unique long-lasting edge.

They had the technology to make wootz steel, a ‘high-grade’ steel that was highly prized and much sought after across several regions of the world over nearly two millennia.

Wootz also had a high percentage of carbon, which was introduced by incorporating wood and other organic matter during fabrication.

India, for ages, was a leading exporter of this steel which was used to make Persian daggers which were quite popular in Europe centuries ago.

The technique to manufacture wootz declined steadily and has not been in use since the 17th century, Curl said.

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