Weekly Roundup 70

Now although the wonders of the ancient world may have been great feats of architectural design, if you ask a material scientist about wonders of the ancient world, there are two that come to mind. Roman concrete and Damascus steel. Many of the great structures of ancient Rome such as the Pantheon, the Colosseum and the Basilica Nova were all built from concrete and are still standing (partially in some cases) 2000 years later. Although modern concrete construction has come a long way and in mechanical properties surpasses Roman concrete, the Romans building material is still the epitome of durability even against arid and salt water environments and we are not quite sure how to make it. There have been some chemical and historical studies into the manufacture of ancient concrete and so there is definitely progress in that regard; but then comes the Damascus steel.

Just the image below should highlight one unique aspect about it, its surface is covered in a pattern that looks more organic that metallurgic. It has, to some, become almost legendary, with feats such as being able to cut a hair dropped upon it common to hear about. Although it may not be as impressive as all that, it was an absolute marvel for the time, and in a way still is. It is considered a superplastic and is also incredibly hard at the same time. Studies performed on the archaeological samples we still possess showed that there are carbon nanotubes present aiding in the unique properties. Of course metallurgists are still at a loss for working out how people in the 3rd century were able to create such an alloy and what we would have to do to create some for ourselves.

Although the Greeks get remembered, quite deservedly for the most part, as being heralds of technology and innovation. It should never be forgotten that the Roman Empire, the Abbasid Caliphate, the Song dynasty and many other great societies in history have all brought some of the most fantastic revelations in the scientific field.

Until tomorrow, goodnight.

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