Posted by: A. C. Cockerill | June 27, 2011

Factoid #10: Ancient Nanotechnology

Factoid #10:

Nanotechnology isn’t new. Several nanotech applications have been around for thousands of years. Here are three examples.

1. Dichroic glass –  First appeared in the 4th c. AD. It is most often used in jewelry. For a photo, see

2. Stained glass – Gold and silver nanoparticles were used in ancient and medieval times to add color to the glass (e.g. cathedral windows).

3. Damascus swords – Medieval Middle-Eastern swords known for their remarkable strength. This strength comes from carbon nanotubes in the steel. Did King Arthur’s legendary sword, Excalibur, draw its strength from carbon nanotubes?


  1. Just wanted to stop by and tell you that I look forward to these factoids. They’re short and to the point, yet I learn something new each time I read them.

    • Hi Patti, You’re very welcome. And you just made my day. Thank you, Ashley

  2. LOVED the factoids. You just never know what you can learn. Very interesting stuff. Here we think we’ve come a long way, made great strides, but in reality technology sometimes was more advanced in the past. Thanks for the post.

    • Hi Angelique, You’re very welcome. In the near future, when nanotechnology clears the toxicolgy-testing hurdles–and it will, just like semiconductors and medicine–a flood of exciting, disruptive applications will come our way. My favorite advances are in targeted drug delivery. Imagine cancer treatments without the nasty side effects! Cheers, Ashley

  3. Very interesting. I knew none of that. Nanotechnology is thrilling yet scary to me. Especially when reading some of those science fiction books like Prey by Michael Crichton. 🙂

    • Hi Rhonda, I greatly appreciate your comment. The risk assessments I’ve seen for nanotechnology run at levels similar to the semiconductor and medical industries. Scientists and engineers are currently working on procedures and protocols for how to handle and use this technology safely. We went through a similar transition for making computer chips.
      Michael Crichton’s book is an interesting example. Some people in the technical world believe this book hurt the nanotech industry by as much as a five-year delay–not good for job creation or beneficial medical advances.
      I would like to encourage commercial fiction writers to make nanotechnology part of their heroines’ and heros’ save-the-day solutions. This would be fresh writing, and the applications can be found in every aspect of our lives, especially in alternative energy and medicine. If researched well, such innovative stories might inspire students to go into nanotechnology and solve key world problems.
      Cheers, Ashley

  4. Very cool info! Thanks for compiling this 🙂

    • You’re very welcome, Christine. Be sure to check out this site’s prior Fun Factoids. They’re cool, too. Cheers, Ashley

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