Nanotechnology in Ancient India

Carbon nanotube

Sir Walter Scott in his book Talisman mentions, through a recreation of the scene of October 1192 AD when Richard Lionheart of England met Saladin the Saracen to end the Third Crusade, that Richard wielded a good English broadsword while Saladin had a scimitar of Damascus steel, ‘a curved and narrow blade, which glittered not like the swords… but was, on the contrary, of a dull blue colour, marked with ten millions of meandering lines…'[Nanotechnology was used by ancient Indians’ ]

The Damascus steel is actually Indian steel. Wootz steel as it is known is formed by adding large quantities of carbon to iron and this steel industry was based in the southern peninsula. The name Wootz is the westernized version of Kannada ukku and Sangam Tamil ekku, meaning crucible steel.

According to Robert Floyd Curl, Jr., Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry in 1996, Indian craftsmen used nanotechnology in Wootz steel as well as in paintings. More specifically carbon nanotubes, first announced by Russian scientists in 1952, was found in the sword of Tipu Sultan as well as in Ajanta paintings. Carbon nanotubes which are cylidrical fullerenes have extraordinary strength in terms of tensile strength and elastic modulus

“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.

Indian craftsmen used unique smelting techniques to manufacture the Damascus blades which led to nanotisation giving them a unique long-lasting edge. 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. [Indian craftsmen, artisans used nanotech 2000 yrs ago]

See Also: The nanotechnological wonders of Damascene steel, The Wootz File, Wootz Figures, The Legendary Wootz Steel

7 thoughts on “Nanotechnology in Ancient India

  1. Ekku is still used in Tamil but it not a common word. This is a word that I remember from my Tamil text book in 1st grade; a word used in the study of tamil alphabets.

  2. Yes, the word is still widely used, Salem steel plants are called “Salem Ekku aalai” in official documentation and reporting.

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