Scientists from the Getty Conservation Institute, Stanford’s National Accelerator Laboratory, and the Aerospace Corporation are using X-ray absorption to gain further insight into the molecular structure of Attic pottery.
A spacecraft’s ceramic tiles have to be able to withstand a staggering range of temperatures, from -120C in the cold vacuum of space to 1650C when re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
The tiles, which number 27,000, can cope with such temperature fluctuations because they are made of silica, which prevents heat from spreading.
Scientists have found that the ceramic pigments in Attic pottery can not only withstand searing heat, but also remain chemically stable while doing so.
Materials scientist Mark Zurbuchen told Physorg.com: ‘Ceramic components are used all through space technology and space vehicles.
‘We need to continue to learn about interactions of components within these materials to help us better understand any real-world issues that may arise in actual space components.’
Project leader Karen Trentalman emphasized that while Attic pottery is very old – dating back to the fifth and sixth centuries BC – it can definitely be useful in improving modern technology and design.