Ancient Pigment Resurrected For Modern Applications | May 4, 2009 Issue - Vol. 87 Issue 18 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 87 Issue 18 | p. 44 | Concentrates
Issue Date: May 4, 2009

Ancient Pigment Resurrected For Modern Applications

Egyptian blue, a synthetic pigment first produced around 2500 B.C., could find use in the modern era in biomedical and other applications
Department: Science & Technology
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A Blue For The Ages
Ancient Egyptians used synthetic cuprorivaite (CaCuSi4O10) in this wall painting, "Fowling in the Marshes." Created around 1350 B.C., the painting was taken from the tomb of Nebamun in Thebes. "Recent conservation work revealed that the cat has gold leaf placed on its eye," according to the British Museum. "Despite his modest title of 'scribe and counter of grain,' Nebamun could evidently afford to put a great deal of resources into his tomb."
Credit: © Trustees of the British Museum
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A Blue For The Ages
Ancient Egyptians used synthetic cuprorivaite (CaCuSi4O10) in this wall painting, "Fowling in the Marshes." Created around 1350 B.C., the painting was taken from the tomb of Nebamun in Thebes. "Recent conservation work revealed that the cat has gold leaf placed on its eye," according to the British Museum. "Despite his modest title of 'scribe and counter of grain,' Nebamun could evidently afford to put a great deal of resources into his tomb."
Credit: © Trustees of the British Museum

Egyptian blue, a synthetic pigment first produced by the ancient Egyptians around 2500 B.C., could find use in the modern era in applications such as biomedical analysis, telecommunications, and lasers, according to a new report (Chem. Commun., DOI: 10.1039/b902563d). A team led by Gianluca Accorsi of Italy's Institute for Organic Synthesis & Photoreactivity performed a quantitative study of the colorant's luminescence properties to assess its quantum efficiency and lifetime. They found that the CaCuSi4O10 pigment, also known as cuprorivaite, has an exceptionally high luminescence quantum yield for a molecular-level infrared emitter—10.5%. Egyptian blue's long luminescence lifetime and intense IR emission make it a promising candidate for use in biomedical applications, for example, because IR photons can deeply penetrate human tissue and the pigment's emission at 910 nm minimizes light absorption by tissues. Furthermore, the pigment is extremely stable, exhibiting bright luminescence even after millennia in both dry and damp environments. "Ancient Egyptians may not have attained eternal life," the researchers muse, "but one of their most frequently used pigments may now have a future in a variety of high-tech applications."

 
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