Beating Swords Into Nanoshares: Researchers Find Carbon Nanotubes in Famed Damascus Swords

180px-DamaszenerKlingeAs 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.

17 thoughts on “Beating Swords Into Nanoshares: Researchers Find Carbon Nanotubes in Famed Damascus Swords”

  1. Mike,

    There’s that Arthur C Clark quote: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”

    I’m all for shaking up the establishment, but the problem is that Van Daniken displays all the same behavior as the people you’re complaining about.

  2. Gyges,
    I don’t disagree with you on much of what you say, but Van Daniken, Velikovsky, Sitchin and Hancock, raise issues with the purported truths of Archaeology and so I find them stimulating. In truth Archaeology/Anthropology are my first loves and the one major mistake of my life was that I didn’t make a career of them. For that I have no one to blame but myself and my work and my family have fulfilled me more than a person could reasonably hope for.

    Since I still maintain an abiding interest in these fields though, I am frustrated by the “experts” in the field, who develop their own pet theories and disparage any new thoughts. There is also a political/religious component to this thought suppression as illustrated by Egyptology and by the attempted hijacking of the “Dead Sea Scrolls.” While claiming themselves sciences, the current Archaeology and Anthropology establishments eschew the scientific method and prefer the familiarity of “the old boys” network. Therefore I’m in favor of whatever pisses them off and while I can see the flaws in the works of the four names I listed above, they are helpful in setting me out on my own flights of fancy about the evolution and history of mankind.

  3. Mike,

    With as much stuff as Van Daniken just flat out makes up, and all the ongoing research that he ignores, you almost have to view it as the most in depth marketing campaign for a sci-fi series ever.

    Also, I’d say he falls flatly into the smugness of humanity in regards to the past that you were arguing against. His whole argument is essentially “Well, since WE don’t know how they did it they couldn’t have done it on their own.” When you consider all the things that would need to be true for his theory to be right, it’s pretty clear which theory Ockham’s razor trims off.

  4. Gyges,
    Love hand of Oberon. Yes I’ve read the entire jordan series, but also realized early on that his writing was suffering. what I also didn’t like was the sections where he wrote from a women’s perspective, he seemed somewhat sexist to me. Also plotting wise there was a good deal of clunkiness. Now that he’s dead, with no conclusion to the series, another writer has been chosen (google Tor Books for more info) to work with his widow and notes to complete the series. Guess what they say it will take three more books. I quit at that. Zelaszny, Farmer, Brust, etc. could do so much more series wise, with much less words. Good concept, poor execution, over rated SF writer.

    Also, I like Van Daniken, even though he is not the greatest researcher. I think his ideas have possibilities, especially given the ancient texts of Sumer and India. Also biblically speaking there too exists interesting possibilities. Also
    Sitchin does good stuff in that area, as does Hancock to a lesser extent.

  5. Mike,

    Speaking of swords… I just finished “The Hand of Oberon,” I had forgotten how literal the title was.

    Just out of curiosity did you ever try and read Robert Jordan’s series? I got to book 4 or 5 and the quality of writing just tanked. I think that must have been the point where he had to spend more time making notes so he got the continuity right than actually writing.

  6. NOVA did a documentary titled “Secrets of the Samurai Sword” that was fascinating. Maybe it will show up on late night re-runs.

  7. Something about *tubes* that elicits the most brillant minds; Senator Ted Stevens’ own Internet is but one example…

  8. The Egyptians appeared to have done brain surgery around 3,500 years ago. The Greeks knew the world was round by at least 300BCE, if not earlier. Mohenjo-daro, the chief city of the Indus Civilization of about 4,000 years ago had water, sewage and toilet facilities more advance than that of 17th Century Europe. The Japanese had a process for sword blades called “watered steel,” that was quite similar to the Damascus steel. The smugness of humanity and some of its scientists, as we look on past generations as primitives because they lack some of our creature comforts is unfounded. We would be wise study the past more closely and without the politics and lack of humility of modern archaeology.

  9. Where is Mespo72Cubed when we need him the most. Buddha care to take a stab at this?

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