Let’s take a look at the ancient history that seem strange to us…coming up with this is to increase our knowledge.
As can be seen on these photos it appears jade green when lit from the front but blood-red when lit from behind.
Nobody knew how this effect was created until broken-off fragments were analyzed in 1990, using an electron microscope. The researchers discovered that the glass was impregnated with particles of silver and gold.
The metal particles measure about 50–70 nanometers diameter, smaller than the wavelengths of visible light, but through colloids with other particles are able to absorb various wavelengths.
The effect of the exactly dosed mixture is that it not only creates a two-color effect, but also lights up in different colors depending on the fluid it was filled with.
The famous Lycurgus Cup in the British Museum might be proof that they were indeed very advanced in the sciences, especially in the field of Nanotechnology.
The 1,600-year-old glass goblet does something very magical: It changes color from jade-green to blood-red depending on the direction of its illumination… with the light source from the front, the goblet appears green, from the rear it changes dramatically to red. This is called Dichroic behavior.
Nobody knew about the science behind it including the Roman craftsmen who created this work of art.
But, they might have put it, felix accidente, a happy accident.
However, the Roman may have been the first to discover the colorful potential of nano-particles by accident, but they seem to have created the world’s perfect example of the phenomenon.
The Lysurgus Cup contains some beautiful detailed human figures, which shows the mythical King Lycurgus, as he atempted to kill Ambrosia, a follower of the god Dionysus (Bacchus).
She was transformed into a vine that twined around the enraged king, killing him. Dionysus and two followers are shown taunting the king. Such figures on a caged cup are otherwise unknown.
The Lycurgus Cup was mentioned in French writings as early as the 1845, but no one knew why it changed color.
The British Museum acquired the Cup in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 1990 that researchers examined small broken shards under an electron microscope and discovered the secret. Whether or not the Romans stumbled into it.
At least that’s the theory, because testing this on a priceless artefact is out of the question. Instead a similar mixture was created in an experiment.
When the experiment is going…the scientists imprinted billions of tiny wells onto a plastic plate about the size of a postage stamp and sprayed the wells with gold or silver nano-particles, essentially creating an array with billions of ultra-miniature Lycurgus Cups.
When water, oil, or sugar and salt solutions were poured into the wells, they displayed a range of easy-to-distinguish colors—light green for water and red for oil, for example. The prototype was 100 times more sensitive to altered levels of salt in solution than current commercial sensors using similar techniques.
Now, would it have detected poison in the drink in the cup? Or was it just an amusing gadget for the wealthy?
How the unknown makers discovered to make such astounding works of art is a question that will probably remain unanswered.
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Watch the video of Lycurgus Cup: