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    The Mystery of Damascus Blades.

    Damascus steel is a hot-forged steel used in Middle Eastern sword making from about 1100 to 1700 CE. Damascus swords were of legendary sharpness and strength, and were apocryphally claimed to be able to cut through lesser quality European swords and even rock. The technique used to create original Damascus steel is now a matter of historical conjecture.

    One explanation of the legendary properties of Damascus steel is that the pattern consists of alternating bands of very hard, but brittle iron carbide or cementite and softer more flexible iron. Another possibility is that the steel contains a small amount of vanadium, which would theoretically strengthen the blade.

    The original Damascus steel swords may have been made in the vicinity of Damascus, Syria, in the period from 900 CE to as late as 1750 CE. Damascus steel is a type of steel alloy that is both hard and flexible, a combination that made it ideal for the building of swords. It is said that when Damascus-made swords were first encountered by Crusaders during the Crusades, it garnered an almost mythical reputation—a Damascus steel blade was said to be able to cut a piece of silk in half as it fell to the ground, as well as being able to chop through normal blades, or even rock, without losing its sharp edge.

    A team of researchers based at the Technical University of Dresden that uses x-rays and electron microscopy to examine Damascus steel discovered the presence of cementite nanowiresand carbon nanotubes. Peter Paufler, a member of the Dresden team, says that these nanostructures give Damascus steel its distinctive properties and are a result of the forging process.

    Materials: Carbon nanotubes in an ancient Damascus sabre.

    M. Reibold, P. Paufler, A. A. Levin, W. Kochmann, N. Pätzke & D. C. Meyer.

    The steel of Damascus blades, which were first encountered by the Crusaders when fighting against Muslims, had features not found in European steels — a characteristic wavy banding pattern known as damask, extraordinary mechanical properties, and an exceptionally sharp cutting edge. Here we use high-resolution transmission electron microscopy to examine a sample of Damascus sabre steel from the seventeenth century and find that it contains carbon nanotubes as well as cementite nanowires. This microstructure may offer insight into the beautiful banding pattern of the ultrahigh-carbon steel created from an ancient recipe that was lost long ago.


    1.         Institut fur Strukturphysik, Technische Universität Dresden, 01062 Dresden, Germany

    2.         Triebenberg Laboratory, Technische Universität Dresden, 01062 Dresden, Germany

    3.         Krüllsstrasse 4b, 06766 Wolfen, Germany

    “We modern archaeologists like to say that the elite stuff, the expensive goods that were restricted to the upper classes, really have no interest to us. But cracking the code of how metallurgists made the elite Damascus steel! I vote for that.” - K. Kris Hirst. (Damascus Steel Nanotechnology and Sword Making. About.com Archaeology).



    Alistar Knives U.K.

    TEL: 012-9154001






    Last Updated @ 2/4/2014 10:30:48 PM

    Last Updated @ 2/24/2014 4:22:14 PM

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