Wootz steel is a steel characterized by a pattern of bands or sheets of micro carbides within a tempered martensite or pearlite matrix. It is stated to have developed in India around 300 BC. However, the steel was an old technology in India when King Porus presented a steel sword to the emperor Alexander in 326 BC. The steel technology obviously existed before 326 BC as steel was being exported westward at that time. Since the technology was acquired from the Tamilians from South India, the origin of steel technology in India can be conservatively estimated at 400–500 BC.
The word wootz may have been a mistranscription of wook, an anglicised version of urukke, the word for melting in Tamil and Malayalam or urukku (உருக்கு) (ഉരുക്കു), the word for steel in Kannada (ಉರ್ಕು, ಉಕ್ಕು), Telugu and many other southern Indian languages.
According to traditional history wootz steel originated in India before the birth of Christ. There is archaeological evidence of the manufacturing process in South India from that time. Wootz steel was widely exported and traded throughout ancient Europe and the Arab world, and became particularly famous in the Middle East, where it was known as Damascus steel and was later traced to workshops in western India.
In ancient times, thirty pounds of steel was a precious gift, deemed by King Porus worthy of presentation to Alexander the Great. Another sign that Ancient India was celebrated for its steel is seen in a Persian phrase — to give an "Indian answer," meaning "a cut with an Indian sword."
Wootz steel and development of modern metallurgy 
Legends of wootz steel and Damascus swords aroused the curiosity of the European scientific community from the 17th to the 19th Century. The use of high carbon alloys was not known in Europe previously and thus the research into wootz steel played an important role in the development of modern English, French and Russian metallurgy.
Extant examples 
In 1790, samples of wootz steel were received by Sir Joseph Banks, President of the British Royal society. These samples were subjected to scientific examination and analysis by several experts.
Specimens of daggers and other weapons were sent by the Rajahs of India to the International Exhibition of 1851 and 1862. Though the arms of the swords were beautifully decorated and jeweled, they were most highly prized for the quality of their steel. The swords of the Sikhs were said to bear bending and crumpling, and yet be fine and sharp.
Wootz is charcterized by a pattern caused by bands of clustered Fe3C particles made of microsegregation of low levels of carbide-forming elements.  There is a possibility of an abundance of ultrahard metallic carbides in the steel matrix precipitating out in bands. Wootz swords, especially Damascus blades, were renowned for their sharpness and toughness. Peter Paufler from Dresden University of Technology has discovered evidence of carbon nanotubes in wootz steel However, the leading authourity on this subject, metallurgist Dr. J.D. Verhoeven, disputes this and believes such carbides exist in all steel.
The techniques for its making died out around 1700. Oral tradition in India maintains that a small piece of either white or black hematite (or old wootz) had to be included in each melt, and that a minimum of these elements must be present in the steel for the proper segregation of the micro carbides to take place.
Reproduction research 
Russian metallurgist Pavel Petrovich Anosov (see Bulat steel), Dr. Oleg Sherby and Dr. Jeff Wadsworth and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have all done research, attempting to create steels with similar characteristics to Wootz. However none have had any success so far and the original techniques used to produce wootz steel in India have been lost for centuries.
Cultural references 
- An elaborate fictionalized description of wootz steel manufacture is presented in Neal Stephenson's book The Confusion, part of Stephenson's three-volume work The Baroque Cycle.
- The manufacturing of wootz steel is also detailed in Leo Frankowski's Conrad Stargard series.
- Don Krieg, an early villain in Eiichiro Oda's manga series One Piece, wears body armor made out of wootz steel.
- Tipu Sultan's sword was made of Wootz steel.
See also 
- Michael Faraday, as quoted by Peter Day, The Philosopher's Tree, p. 108, ISBN 0-7503-0571-1
- Srinivasan & Ranganathan
- Srinivasan 1994
- Srinivasan & Griffiths
- C. S. Smith, A History of Metallography, University Press, Chicago (1960)
- Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Vol.85 (1795), ‘Experiments and Observations to investigate the Nature of a Kind of Steel, manu-factured at Bombay, and there called Wootz: with Remarks on the Properties and Composition of the different States of Iron’, by. George Pearson, M.D., F.R.S., pp.322-346
- D. Mushet: Experiments on Wootz or Indian Steel (British Museum 727. k.3), pp.650-62
- Reibold, M; Paufler P, Levin AA, Kochmann W, Pätzke N, Meyer DC (November 16, 2006). "Materials: Carbon nanotubes in an ancient Damascus sabre". Nature (Nature Publishing Group) 444 (7117): 286. Bibcode:2006Natur.444..286R. doi:10.1038/444286a. PMID 17108950. Retrieved 2006-11-17.
Further reading 
- Srinivasan, Sharada & Ranganathan, Srinivasan Wootz Steel: an advanced material of the Ancient World. Bangalore: Indian Institute of Science.
- Srinivasan, Sharada Wootz crucible steel: a newly discovered production site in South India. Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 5 (1994), pp. 49–61.
- Srinivasan, S. and Griffiths, D. South Indian wootz: evidence for high-carbon steel from crucibles from a newly identified site and preliminary comparisons with related finds. Material Issues in Art and Archaeology-V, Materials Research Society Symposium Proceedings Series Vol. 462.
- Hansson 2002, p 81 "Den skapande människan"
- urukku - from the Tamil Lexicon, University of Madras
- History and Characteristics of Wootz Steel in India and Abroad. (Indian Journal of History of Science; vol. 42, no. 3; September 2007). New Delhi: Indian National Science Academy, 2007.
- Srinivasan, Sharada & Ranganathan, Srinivasan India's Legendary Wootz Steel: an advanced material of the ancient world. Bangalore: National Institute of Advanced Studies and Indian Institute of Science, 2004.