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Airdate: Jun 08, 2016
Scientist: Deborah Berhanu

Nanotech - Lycurgus Cup

Nanotech - Lycurgus Cup
Did fourth century Rome know about nanotechnology?

Transcript:
Nano Lycurgus cup

Nanotechnology explores the creation and manipulation of atomic size particles of matter. It's cutting edge science, but it was known in part by the Romans in the fourth century. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Berhanu: Nanoparticles are not new as such. What is new is the manipulation at that scale, our ability to engineer nanoparticles. But nanoparticles have existed for thousands of years and used by humans for thousands of years.

Deborah Berhanu is an assistant professor at the City University of NY in Kingsborough Community College.

Berhanu: Contemporary research shows that nanoparticles are in the Lycurgus cup. The Lycurgus cup is dated to the fourth century and it's a luxury drinking cup that is engraved with the scene that's depicting the death of King Lycurgus.
Now when you look at the cup it appears green. But if you lit of from inside the cup appears red. So whoever made this cup had incorporated silver and gold nanoparticles in the glass.

Researchers actually took small pieces of glass and analyzed it with contemporary instruments, and that's how they realize that gold and silver nanoparticles are embedded within the glass.
That's why they have this particular property of changing color. If the glass was just normal glass it wouldn't change color depending on where we put the light.

To see pictures of the Lycurgus cup, visit us on Facebook. Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology and the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.