I was stuck on an airplane yesterday and I don't often read the New York Times. Even if I did, I would have to be careful about letting Tom Keating
know about it. ;-) Anyway, politics aside the newspaper was pretty informative and I learned
a great deal about the super strong swords known as Damascus sabers made by Assad Ullah who lived in Iran. Apparently the swords have many carbon nanotubes in them.
The steel also contains nanoscale wires of cementite, an extremely hard carbon-iron compound, that were probably formed inside the nanotubes, like the filling in a cannoli. These nanowires give Damascus sabers another distinctive characteristic: a moiré pattern of banding on the steel.
Apparently these swords were used against the Europeans during the crusades. I probably slept through this portion of history class by the way so I have no lucid comments to share with you on the battles. I did however find this site
that has more info on this discovery.
I find it interesting that carbon nanotubes which are on the cutting edge today were in use centuries ago. Sure they didn't know they had nanotubes in their hands but they did. There were no electron microscopes at the time; just tons of trial and error which as it turns out gave the armies who had these Damascus sabers a great advantage.