New York, May 18 :
Ancient Chinese tea bowls are not just for decoration. They probably hold the recipe for a rare form of iron oxide.
Pure epsilon-phase iron oxide was recently discovered unexpectedly in the glaze of silvery Jian bowls made some 1,000 years ago.
Scientists think this type of iron oxide could hold the key to better, cheaper permanent magnets used in electronics.
The oxide has high resistance to corrosion and a lack of toxicity.
“The next step will be to understand how it is possible to reproduce the quality of epsilon-phase iron oxide with modern technology,” Catherine Dejoie of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in California was quoted as saying in media reports.
Scientists have only managed to grow tiny crystals of this material that are often contaminated with hematite.
Jian ceramic wares were created in China’s Fujian Province during the Song dynasty between AD 960 and 1279.
“Certain patterns on Jian bowls were found to have small quantities of epsilon-phase iron oxide,” Dejoie noted.
Scientists have had a hard time making epsilon-phase iron oxide in the lab though it was first identified 80 years ago.
The findings were published online in the journal Scientific Reports.