As many on this site know, I am a bit of a history nut and I could not resist this story. There are many ancient accounts of the famed Damascus swords, particularly from Crusaders who described how the blades were so sharp that they could cut a failing piece of silk while strong enough to cut through rock. It now turns out the medieval Muslim sword-smiths learned how to create carbon nanotubes. The actual discovery was made a couple years ago, but I just came across some articles on the research in looking for some crusade background facts.
Peter Paufler at Dresden’s Technical University discovered carbon nanotubes in the microstructure of a 17th century Damascus sword. They have described how these medieval sword-smiths must have learned how to to forge plates of cementite (Fe3C) t around 800oC while adding such things as “transition elements” (such as V, Cr, Mn, Co, and Ni) and tungsten to form the cementite into bands.
The result was carbon nanotubes and the famed swords. I will not pretend to understand the chemistry but it is still pretty damn cool.
For the full story, click here.