17th century shamshir by Assad Ullah
Nature reports that scientists studying the technology of Damascus steel believe the material used in Arabic Medieval weapons may deserve to be regarded as an early form of nanotechnology.
Unfortunately, they seem to be unaware of the similar technology used in the Indonesian keris, or of the far more complex metallurgy of Japanese swords. And they are evidently unfortunately also unaware of the revival of Damascus steel-making by the late American knifemaker William F. Moran.
Think carbon nanotubes are new-fangled? Think again. The Crusaders felt the might of the tube when they fought against the Muslims and their distinctive, patterned Damascus blades.
Sabres from Damascus, now in Syria, date back as far as 900 AD. Strong and sharp, they are made from a type of steel called wootz.
Their blades bear a banded pattern thought to have been created as the sword was annealed and forged. But the secret of the swords’ manufacture was lost in the eighteenth century.
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.