How true-to-life is beskar steel from the Star Wars universe?
Could we build our own beskar-steel armors like those belonging to the Mandalorians from Star Wars' spin-off series The Mandalorian?
The Mandalorian follows the story of a bounty hunter named Din Djarin from the planet Mandalore and closely depicts the lifestyle, culture, and people of Mandalore, in addition to their way of life — "this is the way". And beskar, or Mandalorian iron, a fictional, high-tolerance, robust, and lightweight metal that could withstand blaster shots and repel lightsaber strikes, plays a huge part in Mandalorians' culture as the main ingredient for the perfect armor.
Originally mined in the planet of Mandalore, beskar is a sacred, powerful metal that could be used to forge weapons and armory. And since it was one of the toughest and most legendary metals in the galaxy, the Empire took beskar as spoils after killing the majority of the Mandalorians in the Great Purge of Mandalore, but that's another day's talk.
The material can be easily shaped and melted into shapes, worked with heat and hammering. What's more, it can withstand blasters and lightsabers, so it's safe to assume that it's fireproof. So technically, beskar should contain an inorganic fiber that doesn't burn. Carbon, perhaps?
Finding beskar on earth
But can we find beskar's counterpart down here on earth? In the series, Djarin gets paid for missions in bars of beskar steel. When in the shape of a bar, beskar appears to be silver with wavy patterns, resembling a legendary, high-carbon type of steel that originated in south India and Sri Lanka and forged in Damascus, Syria from 900 AD to 1750 AD.
Damascus steel, also known as watered steel, is a type of steel alloy that is both hard and flexible, ideal for the building of swords. While it was strong and durable, it was also very light and easy to shape in addition to featuring wavy patterns on it as the result of the unique forging methods that are now extinct. Reminded you of anything?
But what sets Damascus steel apart? According to a study by researchers at the University of Dresden, the composition of Damascus steel's mythical sharpness and strength was the result of carbon nanotubes and carbide nanowires that was seen in a previously forged metal.
Traces of nanotechnology in ancient artefacts
These carbon nanotubes are hexagonal carbon atom cylinders and they are among the strongest materials on earth that offer great elasticity and strength. According to the team's lead researcher Marianne Reibold’s analysis, the nanotubes were protecting nanowires of cementite (Fe3C), a hard and brittle compound formed by the iron and carbon of the steel. And that explains the steel’s special properties. The easily malleable carbon nanotubes make up for the hard nature of the cementite.
The ancient blacksmiths alternated hot and cold phases during the manufacturing process and caused any remaining impurities to spread out into stripes, resulting in the formation of Damascus blades' characteristic wavy texture.
Way before the term came to be, the ancient bladesmiths were found to have been using nanotechnology on forging these swords. Is it safe to say that these Damascus steel craftsmen were both the inspiration for the beskar steel and the very first users of nanotechnology on earth?
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