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Current Affairs

Oldest human-made nanostructures

Date: 22 November 2020 Tags: Pottery


Scientists have discovered the oldest known human-made nanomaterials in the ancient pottery shards of an archaeological site in Keeladi, Tamil Nadu.



The findings expand the broader knowledge of the history of science and technology in India, and point to potential future applications of such nanomaterials as durable coatings.



  • The research revealed that these coatings are made of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) which have enabled the layer to last more than 2,600 years.

  • Until this discovery, the most ancient known nanostructures in human-made artifacts are from the eighth or ninth century AD.

  • Coatings in ancient artifacts may not usually last this long due to wear and tear caused by changing conditions. But the robust mechanical property of the CNT based coating has helped the layer sustain more than 2600 years.

  • The closest scientific explanation for the finding is that some “vegetal fluid or extract” might have been used in the coatings of these pots which may have led to the formation of CNTs during high-temperature processing.


Pottery art

  • Black and red pottery ware associated with megalithic sites in southern India continues into Keeladi dated back to 6th century BCE.

  • The fine black and red effect was achieved by high temperature firing temperatures at about 1100 degrees in the presence of carbon-rich matter and iron-rich red soils.


Carbon Nano Tubes (CNT)

  • Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are cylindrical molecules that consist of rolled-up sheets of single-layer carbon atoms (graphene).

  • Carbon nanotubes have superlative properties, including high thermal and electrical conductivity, and very high mechanical strength.



  • Keeladi excavation site is a Sangam period settlement that is located 12 km southeast of Madurai in Tamil Nadu,

  • The settlement lies on the bank of the Vaigai River and it reflects the ancient culture of Tamil people.