HYDERABAD: Nanotechnology might be of raging interestto scientists world-over now. But Indians had usednano materials in the 16th century “unwittingly” andenabled Arab blacksmiths in making “Damascus steelsword” which was stronger and sharper.
Delivering a talk on ‘The contributions of elementalcarbon to the development of nano science andtechnology’ at the Indian Institute of ChemicalTechnology (IICT) here on Monday and while interactingwith the media, Nobel laureate Robert F. Curl saidthat carbon nanotechnology was much older than carbonnano science.For the Damascus sword, Indians produced the rawmaterial -- mined iron ore and exported it. He saidthat up to the middle of 18th century, the steelswords depended on this particular material and whenthe mines in India stopped, “they lost thetechnology.” The Damascus sword when subjected toscrutiny by an electron microscope in 2006 had shownto contain large amounts of nanotubes.Similarly, glass materials produced in the Roman timehad nano materials. He said the glass was covered withnano particles of gold and silver. He said the peoplewere using such materials without understanding whatthey were doing for a long time.Prof. Curl shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996for discovery of fullerenes along with Richard Smalleyand Harold Kroto.
Replying to a question about the use of nano materialsin facial creams, he wondered whether they made anydifference. Asked whether he approved of their use, hereplied that he did not approve of using chemicalswhich were not thoroughly evaluated. “I feel with newmaterials, you have to be careful.” Asked about thediscovery of fullerenes, he said “this was all a luckyaccident.”
Prof. Curl was later given the ‘Lifetime AchievementAward in Science’ instituted by B.M. Birla ScienceCentre. Nirmala Birla, president of the sciencecentre, presented the award. The Nobel Laureate gaveaway B.M. Birla Science prizes to six young scientistsin the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Biology andMathematics.Dr. Krishna Dronamraju, President, Foundation forGenetic Research, also spoke.
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