American Chemical Society podcast: From ancient Egypt — new technologies

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2013 — The latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) award-winning Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions podcast series describes how a bright blue pigment used 5,000 years ago is giving modern scientists clues toward the development of new nanomaterials. These materials could be used in remote controls for televisions, security inks, state-of-the-art medical imaging devices and other technology.

Based on a report by Tina Salguero, Ph.D., and colleagues in ACS’ Journal of the American Chemical Society, the new podcast is available without charge at iTunes and from

“Egyptian blue,” regarded as humanity’s first artificial pigment, was used in paintings on tombs, statues and other objects throughout the ancient Mediterranean world.

In the new episode, Salguero explains that remnants of the pigment have been found, for instance, on the statue of the messenger goddess Iris on the Parthenon. It’s also in the famous Pond in a Garden fresco in the tomb of Egyptian “scribe and counter of grain” Nebamun in Thebes.

She describes surprise 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 sheets produce invisible infrared (IR) radiation similar to the beams that communicate between remote controls and TVs, car door locks and other telecommunications devices.

The nanosheets provide a clue for the development of new materials for near-IR-based biomedical imaging, IR light-emitting devices for telecommunications and security ink formulations, explains Salguero. In this way, the researchers are reimagining the applications of an ancient material through modern eyes.

Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions is a series of podcasts describing some of the 21st century’s most daunting problems, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. Global Challenges is the centerpiece in an alliance on sustainability between ACS and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Global Challenges is a sweeping panorama of global challenges that includes dilemmas such as providing a hungry and thirsty world with ample supplies of safe food and clean water, developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel society, preserving the environment and ensuring a sustainable future for our children and improving human health.

For more entertaining, informative science videos and podcasts from the ACS Office of Public Affairs, view Prized Science, Spellbound, Science Elements and Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions.

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