The Colourful Secret of the Romans

Does anyone know when nanotechnology evolved? It is really thought provoking to know about the evolution of technology from historic days. Here is one such technology which is mind blustering. The ancient people with inventiveness and skills deliberate the colourful secret of the Romans with their artifact that clearly shows they are far ahead of their time. They are the inventors of Nanotechnology.

                   The researchers have succeeded in finding out the nanotechnology used by the ancient Romans in the 4th century AD in which a glass cage goblet changes its colour when light falls on it. Lycurgus cup is 1,600 years old and it is mostly cherished for its scene from the myth of Lycurgus, a king of Thracians (around 800 BC). A man of violent temper, he attacked Dionysus and one of his maenads, Ambrosia. Ambrosia called out to Mother Earth, who changed herself into vine. She then coiled herself about the king and held him. The cup portrays the moment when the King is captured by the branches of the vine.

A portrayal about the Lycurgus cup:

                         Material used:  Dichroic glass

                         Created:  4th century AD

                         Present location:  British museum

                        Identification:  1958

                 The cup parades different colours when the light falls on it. When the light source is from obverse it shows green colour and when it’s from behind it exhibits wine red colour. In the same way when water, oil, sugar solutions, etc., are poured into the cup, distinguishable colours are observed. This changing of colour was a scientific enigmatic for a long time. Later on, in 1990 the researchers have found the reason behind the Lycurgus cup is the dichroic glass that contains tiny particles of gold and silver. And the nanoparticles used here was 100 times smaller than the salt particles. Goblet is mainly used during the stint of grand occasions and when the altered solutions are added into the demitasse, it changes its colour depending upon the vibrational differences produced in the cup.


Physics pivotal:

                   Lycurgus cup contains the glass flux 330 parts per million of silver and 40 of gold particles were mixed with the glass. The size of the particles vary from 50 -70 nano meters that can be visible only through a transmission electron microscope. They are in the form of colloids and form a silver gold alloy. The minute particles reflect the light without any elimination in the process of transmission and so various colours are seen when viewed from different angles depending on the observer’s position. Here in this, the goblet light plays a major role.


This picture states the evidence about the colour changes that transpires due to the electrons when the light rays falls on it.


Video link:


Lycurgus a mode to new technology:

  • Lots of changes can be brought in the field of photonics, since the optical mechanisms cannot achieve this kind of functionality. They can be used for the next level ultra thin consumer electronics.
  • They are used for detecting the pathogens in saliva.
  • If terrorists carry dangerous liquids in an airplane it can be detected easily.

If researchers develop a detection tool from this historic technology it will be a turn for ensuring the Lycurgus cup. The Lycurgus cup is definitely a stride to Nanotechnology.


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