Saturday, February 9, 2008

Umbrian Renaissance Pottery and Nano Glazes

Coloured glazes in pottery samples from the Umbrian town of Deruta exploit the reflective properties of minute metal grains to give them a rich lustre, Bruno Brunetti of the University of Perugia and colleagues find. At its peak in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the finely painted ceramics of the Deruta pottery industry were in demand all over Europe.Glazes are basically thin films of coloured glass. Metal salts give colour to a glassy matrix produced by fusing sand alkalis such as soda in the heat of a kiln. Coloured glazes such as blue-glazed stone carvings from the Middle East have been around since at least 4500 BC.
Previous analyses of Umbrian Renaissance pottery showed that they had a chemical composition typical of the period: a mix of sand and alkali, with lead oxide added to reduce shrinkage and cracking.
Particles of metal of between 5 and 100 billionths of a metre across technically, a nanomaterial underlie this effect. Brunetti and colleagues found last year that red-and gold-lustre glazes contain particles of copper and silver, respectively, in this size range.Instead of scattering light, the particles' minute size causes light to bounce off their surface at different wavelengths, giving metallic or iridescent effects.Metal nanoparticles aren't the whole story, the team now finds. The red and gold glazes also contain traces of copper ions in what appear to be finely tuned amounts.Historical evidence for the early nanotechnology survives in the potter's handbook of around 1557, Li tre libri dell'arte del vasaio, by Italian craftsman Cipriano Piccolpasso. Copper and silver salts were mixed with vinegar, ochre (iron oxide) and clay and applied to the surface of pottery already coated with a glaze. A delicately regulated firing technique resulted in a pot with a lustrous surface.(via Nature)

1 comment:

  1. This is amazing! I love the photos of different kinds of pots. Beautiful! Would like to link your blog to mine so I can visit it often.