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February 25, 2013

A Pigment Used in Ancient Egypt Breaks into Nanosheets, Has potential Telecommunications and Security Ink Technology Applications

By Michael Guta, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Chances are, if you have seen ancient Egyptian paintings, you’ve noticed a bright blue that stands out in most of the scenery or artifacts that used this color. The color is called Egyptian Blue and it is considered the first artificial pigment used as early as 2500 B.C. by the Egyptians. The color was so popular it was used by the Mesopotamians, Romans and Greeks who used it at the Parthenon in Athens. By 1000 A.D., the color had gone out of favor and it was forgotten until a century ago when chemist started looking at its properties. Technically or the chemical name is copper calcium silicate and researchers are finding out it can break into nanosheets thin enough to fit thousands of them across the width of a human hair.

The color is very stable, and this can be confirmed by the vivid blue present to this day on many different specimens across many different countries around the world. The Romans used the color which they called caeruleum, and Vitrius describes how it was produced in his work de architectura. The process involved grinding lime-rich sand, copper and natron and putting the mixture in a furnace shaped into small balls.

The Journal of the American Chemical Society has published an article about the pigment. They concluded it is possible the new nano materials have the potential for applications in state of the art medical imaging devices, remote control for televisions, security inks, telecommunications and other technologies.

This is possible because the calcium copper silicate in Egyptian blue produces sheets of invisible infrared (IR) radiation. This radiation is similar to the beams created between the interaction of remote controls and other telecommunication devices.

"Calcium copper silicate provides a route to a new class of nanomaterials that are particularly interesting with respect to state-of-the-art pursuits like near-IR-based biomedical imaging, IR light-emitting devices (especially telecommunication platforms) and security ink formulations.In this way we can reimagine the applications of an ancient material through modern technochemical means, " says the article by the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The Egyptians were ahead of their time in the sciences, art, architecture, agriculture, engineering and other fields during their time. Although they did not have the capability of determining the nano properties of Egyptian blue, it is still impressive that they are influencing our way of life several millennia removed.


Edited by Rich Steeves
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