Metallic and nonmetallic shine in luster: An elastic ion backscattering study

Luster is a metal glass nanocomposite layer first produced in the Middle East in early Islamic times ( 9th AD) made of metal copper or silver nanoparticles embedded in a silica-based glassy matrix. These nanoparticles are produced by ion exchange between Cu+ and Ag+ and alkaline ions from the glassy matrix and further growth in a reducing atmosphere. The most striking property of luster is its capability of reflecting light like a continuous metal layer and it was unexpectedly found to be linked to one single production parameter: the presence of lead in the glassy matrix composition. The purpose of this article is to describe the characteristics and differences of the nanoparticle layers developed on lead rich and lead free glasses. Copper luster layers obtained using the ancient recipes and methods are analyzed by means of elastic ion backscattering spectroscopy associated with other analytical techniques. The depth profile of the different elements is determined, showing that the luster layer formed in lead rich glasses is 5–6 times thinner and 3–4 times Cu richer. Therefore, the metal nanoparticles are more densely packed in the layer and this fact is related to its higher reflectivity. It is shown that lead influences the structure of the metal nanoparticle layer through the change of the precipitation kinetics ​
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