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Mystery Of Delhi's Iron Pillar Unraveled
India Express ^ | 7-18-2002

Posted on 03/13/2005 1:55:06 PM PST by blam

Mystery of Delhi's Iron Pillar unraveled

Press Trust Of India
Thursday, July 18, 2002

New Delhi, July 18: Experts at the Indian Instituteof Technology have resolved the mystery behind the 1,600-year-old iron pillar in Delhi, which has never corroded despite the capital's harsh weather.

Metallurgists at Kanpur IIT have discovered that a thin layer of "misawite", a compound of iron, oxygen and hydrogen, has protected the cast iron pillar from rust.

The protective film took form within three years after erection of the pillar and has been growing ever so slowly since then. After 1,600 years, the film has grown just one-twentieth of a millimeter thick, according to R. Balasubramaniam of the IIT.

In a report published in the journal Current Science Balasubramanian says, the protective film was formed catalytically by the presence of high amounts of phosphorous in the iron—as much as one per cent against less than 0.05 per cent in today's iron.

The high phosphorous content is a result of the unique iron-making process practiced by ancient Indians, who reduced iron ore into steel in one step by mixing it with charcoal.

Modern blast furnaces, on the other hand, use limestone in place of charcoal yielding molten slag and pig iron that is later converted into steel. In the modern process most phosphorous is carried away by the slag.

The pillar—over seven metres high and weighing more than six tonnes—was erected by Kumara Gupta of Gupta dynasty that ruled northern India in AD 320-540.

Stating that the pillar is "a living testimony to the skill of metallurgists of ancient India", Balasubramaniam said the "kinetic scheme" that his group developed for predicting growth of the protective film may be useful for modeling long-term corrosion behaviour of containers for nuclear storage applications.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: archaeology; delhis; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; history; india; iron; mystery; pillar; unraveled

1 posted on 03/13/2005 1:55:09 PM PST by blam
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To: blam

They don't make 'em like they used to.


2 posted on 03/13/2005 1:57:21 PM PST by jocon307
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To: SunkenCiv
GGG Ping.

And this today:

More research needed on Delhi Iron Pillar: experts:

[India News]: New Delhi, Mar 13

The Delhi Iron Pillar, which has withstood corrosion for over 1,600 years, continues to attract the attention of archaeologists and scientists who want to undertake a systematic study to unfold the secret behind its strength.

A panel of scientists from across the country has recommended that the Government allow research on the pillar, a symbol of Indian metallurgical excellence, to ascertain its age, as well as for conservation of its underground part and the passive film that has preserved it through the ages.

"The Archaeological Survey of India has agreed to allow the use of well-established non-invasive techniques to ascertain as to when was the pillar built and its material aspects. But the efficacy of the techniques should be established by testing other ancient iron objects such as Iron Pillar at Dhar and Iron Beams at Konark," Director, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Dr Baldev Raj, who was a member of the panel that made the recommendations, said.

The panel had gathered here to review the status of scientific research on the pillar and make recommendations to the Government to initiate systematic scientific studies to gain more information about it.

Earlier studies, beginning in 1961, have thrown some light on the composition and the microstructure of the "rustless wonder", but difference versions exist on the scientific dating of the pillar, Professor R Balasubramaniam, a scientist at IIT Kanpur who has conducted extensive research on the pillar, said. PTI

3 posted on 03/13/2005 1:59:56 PM PST by blam
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To: blam

Good Lord, this technology has been around for over 1600 years? To think how much rust proof steel could have saved in money, time, and labor. Staggering.


4 posted on 03/13/2005 2:04:41 PM PST by Free Vulcan
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To: Free Vulcan

This is not a union friendly material.


5 posted on 03/13/2005 2:07:18 PM PST by nygoose
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To: blam

I have a photo of the iron pillar from my visit to Delhi but don't know how to post it.


6 posted on 03/13/2005 2:10:16 PM PST by razoroccam (Then in the name of Allah, they will let loose the Germs of War (http://www.booksurge.com))
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To: blam
the film has grown just one-twentieth of a millimeter thick,



It has only grown 1/20 of a millimeter thick, but somehow encompasses the entire pillar from top to bottom.
7 posted on 03/13/2005 2:11:27 PM PST by Bostton1
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To: Free Vulcan

"Good Lord, this technology has been around for over 1600 years? To think how much rust proof steel could have saved in money, time, and labor. Staggering."

I just thought the same thing - rust proof! All these years, the technology was lost. How many other secrets have been lost to us, and are just waiting to be rediscovered?


8 posted on 03/13/2005 2:21:34 PM PST by dandelion
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To: Bostton1
"It has only grown 1/20 of a millimeter thick, but somehow encompasses the entire pillar from top to bottom."

Not hard to understand. The phosphorous that caused the beneficial reaction (probably electrochemical to produce the necessary hydrogen--but the article doesn't say--consider that "chemical speculation") is distributed uniformly throughout the iron matrix due to the way the iron was made. The film will only form on the surface exposed to moisture and oxygen, which is only (but everywhere) on the surface of the entire pillar from top to bottom.

9 posted on 03/13/2005 2:22:34 PM PST by Wonder Warthog (The Hog of Steel)
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To: razoroccam
It has to be on a webpage, for you to be able to post it.

I did a search and found some pictures of it.

Iron Pillar

The above article is from corrosion-doctors.org website and gives more details about the pillar and the theories about why it's not corroded.

10 posted on 03/13/2005 2:22:51 PM PST by FairOpinion (It is better to light a candle, than curse the darkness.)
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To: dandelion

My Granddad passed away last year at age 98. He was at turns a foundry worker, machinist, master patternmaker and coremaker. He claimed that the "old timers" (folks who were 50 or so in the 1920s) told him that there had once been a process to harden copper so as to use it for tools, etc.
One wonders if the ancient Egyptians (who used copper tools to cut the stone used in the Pyramids) knew of this process.
There was probably a scroll or three on this in the Great Library of Alexandira before it was destroyed.


11 posted on 03/13/2005 2:28:46 PM PST by Ostlandr (Ich liebe alles der Juden und Schwarzen. Ich hast alles der Weissenvolk.)
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To: blam
the protective film was formed catalytically by the presence of high amounts of phosphorous in the iron—as much as one per cent against less than 0.05 per cent in today's iron.

Before everyone goes all ga-ga over the skill of the ancients, consider this. The reason that phosphorous is eliminated by modern metallurgical process is that it causes the iron to be exceedingly brittle, thus rendering it unsuitable for use as a structural material or say a cannon barrel. Perfectly acceptable for a decorative column or ballast weight however.

Regards,
GtG

12 posted on 03/13/2005 2:42:12 PM PST by Gandalf_The_Gray (I live in my own little world, but I like it 'cuz they know me here.)
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To: Ostlandr

I once owned a copper bladed knife made by the Dawson Hardened Cooper Cutlery Co. I think they were in business in the 20s.
The knife turned out to be valuable once it left my hands.
:(

mc


13 posted on 03/13/2005 2:44:26 PM PST by mcshot (Boldly going nowhere with a smile and appreciation for life.)
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To: Ostlandr
My Granddad passed away last year at age 98. He was at turns a foundry worker, machinist, master patternmaker and coremaker. He claimed that the "old timers" (folks who were 50 or so in the 1920s) told him that there had once been a process to harden copper so as to use it for tools, etc.

Rome concurred the world with bronze swords. Iron still beat the heck out of bronze when it became generally available. If you need to harden copper, it may be alloyed w/ beryllium, which also makes the material "non-sparking". A very useful characteristic in some circumstances.

Regards,
GtG

14 posted on 03/13/2005 2:49:14 PM PST by Gandalf_The_Gray (I live in my own little world, but I like it 'cuz they know me here.)
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To: jocon307

Forget the details, where can I get lawn furniture made from this iron?


15 posted on 03/13/2005 2:54:20 PM PST by SampleMan ("Yes I am drunk, very drunk. But you madam are ugly, and tomorrow morning I shall be sober." WSC)
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To: Wonder Warthog
" The film will only form on the surface exposed to moisture and oxygen, which is only (but everywhere) on the surface of the entire pillar from top to bottom."

And, will continue to grow at a decreasing rate as less iron is exposed to the ambient oxygen.

16 posted on 03/13/2005 2:54:27 PM PST by blam
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To: Gandalf_The_Gray

Again, too many details! I have but one question. Can it be put to use as lawn furniture!?!? ;)


17 posted on 03/13/2005 2:57:08 PM PST by SampleMan ("Yes I am drunk, very drunk. But you madam are ugly, and tomorrow morning I shall be sober." WSC)
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To: Gandalf_The_Gray
Before everyone goes all ga-ga over the skill of the ancients, consider this. The reason that phosphorous is eliminated by modern metallurgical process is that it causes the iron to be exceedingly brittle, thus rendering it unsuitable for use as a structural material or say a cannon barrel. Perfectly acceptable for a decorative column or ballast weight however.

And Parkerizing is the formation of basic iron phosphate on a surface to protect it from rusting. Not very "New", but loading the iron with phosphorous and leaving it in the rain is a tedious way to do it. Plus, as you say, the physical properties of the iron would be horrible.

18 posted on 03/13/2005 2:58:16 PM PST by Gorzaloon
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To: Gandalf_The_Gray
"Rome concurred the world with bronze swords. Iron still beat the heck out of bronze when it became generally available. If you need to harden copper, it may be alloyed w/ beryllium, which also makes the material "non-sparking". A very useful characteristic in some circumstances."

FYI: The oldest bronze smeltering site in the world is in Thailand.

19 posted on 03/13/2005 2:59:08 PM PST by blam
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To: Gandalf_The_Gray
reason that phosphorous is eliminated by modern metallurgical process is that it causes the iron to be exceedingly brittle, thus rendering it unsuitable for use as a structural material or say a cannon barrel.

And that, sir, is why you're such a fine wizard.

Of course, had our ancient Indian metalmen been more patient, and added the charcoal somewhat later in the process, they'd have gotten steel....

20 posted on 03/13/2005 2:59:09 PM PST by r9etb
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To: Free Vulcan

Yes, but rust greatly helps to enhance 'planned obsolescence'. The economy would take a deep dive if our cars didn't rust or wear out. sarcasm/off


21 posted on 03/13/2005 3:04:39 PM PST by wizr (Freedom ain't free.)
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To: Gandalf_The_Gray
it may be alloyed w/ beryllium

agreed - but isnt beryllium nasty stuff ?

22 posted on 03/13/2005 3:10:29 PM PST by Revelation 911
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To: blam

BTTT


23 posted on 03/13/2005 3:15:04 PM PST by Fiddlstix (This Tagline for sale. (Presented by TagLines R US))
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To: wizr

US Steel has been producing "non-rusting" steel for years for structural purposes. The process involves a stable corrosion that turns the surface a deep brown and doesn't need painting. Some provisional needs for run off stain though as it does "bleed" some with rain. A good percentage of highway bridge beams are made of it. Look for it.. : USA is no. 1..


24 posted on 03/13/2005 3:19:23 PM PST by glowworm ( Rats and rat behavior, a rat is a rat is a rat..)
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To: blam

Cold rust bluing, which is a process applied to gun metal, works on a similar principle. Essentially, it is a fixed film of corrosion that prevents further rust from forming. Parkerization (used on Garand M1s) used a phosphate based process to achieve similar result.


25 posted on 03/13/2005 3:23:26 PM PST by JCEccles (If Jimmy Carter were a country, he'd be Canada.)
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To: blam

uh huh huh huh huh huh huh huh, he said "erection"....


26 posted on 03/13/2005 3:26:57 PM PST by baclava
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To: r9etb

Keep in mind that this is not a casting but a forging
weighing 6.5 tons.
The skill level is amazing, I have had an interest in the
Pillar for over thirty years as a blacksmith.


27 posted on 03/13/2005 3:30:07 PM PST by tet68 ( " We would not die in that man's company, that fears his fellowship to die with us...." Henry V.)
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To: blam
Someone better tell Detroit.
28 posted on 03/13/2005 3:39:12 PM PST by Fast1 (Destroy America buy Chinese goods,Shop at Wal Mart)
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To: r9etb
"Of course, had our ancient Indian metalmen been more patient, and added the charcoal somewhat later in the process, they'd have gotten steel...."

That probably should read "removed the charcoal."

Cast iron is about 3 1/2% carbon, high carbon steel is about 1% carbon, mild steel is 0.2% carbon or less.

The iron pillar has longevity in spite of the high amount of phosphorus in the iron because it is loaded in compression instead of tension where the brittleness will show up.

29 posted on 03/13/2005 3:44:35 PM PST by nightdriver
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To: blam
"And, will continue to grow at a decreasing rate as less iron is exposed to the ambient oxygen."

Probably. That depends on the permeability of the film to oxygen. Some films are very impermeable (oxides of aluminum and titanium). Some are less impermeable (other iron oxides, copper oxide, and the like).

From the situation, I'd guess that this particular film is one of the highly impermeable ones.

30 posted on 03/13/2005 3:48:27 PM PST by Wonder Warthog (The Hog of Steel)
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To: Revelation 911
"agreed - but isnt beryllium nasty stuff ?"

Yup---VERY toxic.

31 posted on 03/13/2005 3:49:57 PM PST by Wonder Warthog (The Hog of Steel)
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To: glowworm
US Steel has been producing "non-rusting" steel for years for structural purposes. The process involves a stable corrosion that turns the surface a deep brown and doesn't need painting. Some provisional needs for run off stain though as it does "bleed" some with rain. A good percentage of highway bridge beams are made of it. Look for it.. : USA is no. 1..

I think you're talking about Cor-Ten steel. This steel is alloyed a little bit to make a rust stain that is supposed to be protective. However, this stuff hasn't always worked as well as planned. In some places, the local atmosphere is too aggressive for the steel, and the film isn't protective. Instead, the steel just keeps making a fine rust that falls from every surface and covers everyone and everything underneath.

Bill

32 posted on 03/13/2005 3:59:28 PM PST by WFTR (Liberty isn't for cowards)
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To: FairOpinion

Oh...It's right next to the Leaning Tower of Pizza...I'd wondered where it was at...


33 posted on 03/13/2005 4:02:56 PM PST by Iscool
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To: blam; vannrox; RightOnTheLeftCoast

Thanks Blam, will add it to the GGG catalog. Welcome to RightOnTheLeftCoast.

similar thread:

Mystery of Delhi's Iron Pillar unraveled
Press Trust of India | Sunday, July 21, 2002 | Editorial Staff
Posted on 07/21/2002 1:15:49 PM PDT by vannrox
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/719966/posts


34 posted on 03/13/2005 4:04:05 PM PST by SunkenCiv (last updated my FreeRepublic profile on Sunday, March 13, 2005.)
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Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on, off, or alter the "Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list --
Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
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35 posted on 03/13/2005 4:05:03 PM PST by SunkenCiv (last updated my FreeRepublic profile on Sunday, March 13, 2005.)
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To: blam
Metallurgists at Kanpur IIT have discovered that a thin layer of "misawite", a compound of iron, oxygen and hydrogen, has protected the cast iron pillar from rust.

Every steel surface is coated with a layer of iron, oxygen, and hyrdogen. Rust is nothing but iron, oxygen, and hydrogen. Some of the iron oxides and hydroxides are more protective than others. Apparently, the phosphorus in this steel caused the surface to be coated with one of the more protective minerals.

It will be interesting to see whether the corrosion performance of this piece changes with time. If India gets enough industry to get a little acid rain, the whole surface could become active and start corroding rapidly in a very short period of time.

Bill

36 posted on 03/13/2005 4:05:55 PM PST by WFTR (Liberty isn't for cowards)
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To: tet68

"The skill level is amazing, I have had an interest in the
Pillar for over thirty years as a blacksmith."

I started forging knives when I was 16 and until I moved to Colorado I had a nice forge. Can't do it in this subdivision I live in now. Have you ever been to the Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, Tn?


37 posted on 03/13/2005 4:13:29 PM PST by dljordan
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To: WFTR

Maybe you should inform US Steel (Now USX) about it. People in Pittsburgh, PA should be warned that the USX Corporate Headquarters skyscraper, downtown, is an enviornmental hazard since it is primarily constructed of the stuf.. :)


38 posted on 03/13/2005 4:25:13 PM PST by glowworm ( Rats and rat behavior, a rat is a rat is a rat..)
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To: glowworm
The process involves a stable corrosion that turns the surface a deep brown and doesn't need painting.

I believe they called it Core 10 steel.

39 posted on 03/13/2005 4:46:41 PM PST by chainsaw (Hillary Clinton-June 2004 - "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.")
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To: SampleMan

I cook with cast iron. My biceps are large, too.


40 posted on 03/13/2005 5:06:16 PM PST by Twinkie ( I'm testing to see how many people read taglines. You did.)
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To: dljordan

. Have you ever been to the Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, Tn?


Yes, several times, went to see Jim Wallace.
I got my start from knowing Alex Bealer, a great guy
and the man who did the most to bring blacksmithing
back in this country.
I helped found ABANA, and was a member of Tullie Smith
Blacksmith Guild and the Alabama Forge Council.
I did some knife making a long time ago, do you know
Jim Batson, Cleston Sinyard?
Went to the knife show here in Atlanta last year, sure
are some talented folks doing great work now.


41 posted on 03/13/2005 6:17:57 PM PST by tet68 ( " We would not die in that man's company, that fears his fellowship to die with us...." Henry V.)
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To: Gorzaloon

Thanx for the info.Phosphorus is the key.I've heard of this pillar before,and the non-corrosive properties were mentioned but no explanation as to why.Mystery solved.


42 posted on 03/13/2005 6:20:00 PM PST by thombo
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To: razoroccam
....from my visit.....

Me too [*LOL*].

43 posted on 03/13/2005 6:24:07 PM PST by DoctorMichael (The Fourth Estate is a Fifth Column!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
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To: glowworm
Maybe you should inform US Steel (Now USX) about it. People in Pittsburgh, PA should be warned that the USX Corporate Headquarters skyscraper, downtown, is an enviornmental hazard since it is primarily constructed of the stuf.. :)

If I remember the stories correctly, the people were fully aware of the problem because they had this stuff raining on them continually. I think that the company eventually put a clear coating over the exposed Cor-Ten. The coating made the steel appear to be just what was orginally designed, but it prevented further oxidation and the subsequent rain of rust particles.

Bill

44 posted on 03/13/2005 10:32:36 PM PST by WFTR (Liberty isn't for cowards)
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To: Ostlandr

I got a similiar story from my father. He was a coal miner. He said that he once had a copper coal chisel that had been made by a Cherokee Indian miner. He told me that the process had involved p*ssing on it during the tempering process.


45 posted on 04/09/2005 5:45:01 AM PDT by Belasarius (Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward. Job 5:2-7)
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46 posted on 03/22/2010 3:23:54 PM PDT by SunkenCiv ("People never lie so much as before an election, during a war, or after a hunt." [Otto von Bismarck])
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47 posted on 03/22/2010 3:29:49 PM PDT by SunkenCiv ("People never lie so much as before an election, during a war, or after a hunt." [Otto von Bismarck])
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