Feb 22 2013, 2:57am CST | by Luigi Lugmayr
Washington, Feb 22 — A bright blue pigment used 5,000 years ago in Egypt is inspiring scientists to develop new nanomaterials for medical imaging devices, TV remote controls, security inks and other technology.
Tina T. Salguero, professor of chemistry, Univeristy of Georgia and colleagues point out that Egyptian blue, regarded as humanity's first artificial pigment, was used in paintings on tombs, statues and other objects throughout the ancient Mediterranean world.
Researchers were surprised in discovering that the calcium copper silicate in Egyptian blue breaks apart into nanosheets so thin that thousands would fit across the width of a human hair, the Journal of the American Chemical Society reports.
The sheets produce invisible infrared (IR) radiation similar to the beams that communicate between remote controls and TVs, car door locks and other telecommunications devices, according to a Georgia statement.
"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 telecom platforms) and security ink formulations," said Salguero.
"In this way, we can reimagine the applications of an ancient material through modern technochemical means," added Salguero.
Remnants of the blue pigment have been found, for instance, on the statue of the messenger goddess Iris on the Parthenon and in the famous Pond in a Garden fresco in the tomb of Egyptian "scribe and counter of grain" Nebamun in Thebes.
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