Trying to Make Game of Thrones Valyrian Steel Sword With Real Materials

Illustration for article titled Trying to Make Game of Thrones Valyrian Steel Sword With Real Materials

Nothing reigns consistently in HBO’s Game of Thrones (and George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” book series that inspired it) except Valyrian steel, a magical sword material. Valyrian steel is, of course, extremely not real. But materials scientist Ryan Consell took a look at its chemistry anyway.


In the video below, Consell ponders what blend of iron, carbon, and other materials could possibly make Valyrian steel so special, based on characteristics ascribed to the magical steel in the books: a unique rippled pattern and incredible lightness, plus an ability to withstand regular fire:

One of the big contenders for Valyrian quality is spring steel, a low-alloy steel with carbon, silicon, and manganese. It’s strong and durable. Of course, it lacks a certain je ne sais dragonfire, and can’t withstand extreme heat, so there’s no way it could actually work for the near-impervious swords. Air-hardened steel is better for the heat... but too heavy to match up with the Stark’s favored weapon material.

(Requisite moment of silence for Ned Stark, valar morghulis.)

Cosell writes about more possible materials on his blog, including the idea that it’s not actually steel at all:

One possible candidate is that Valyrian steel is a metal matrix composite, or MMC. These employ a metallic framework, which provides some toughness and tensile strength to the material, and have a much harder material, like a ceramic, embedded into them which could provide that indelible edge.

In Martin’s fantasy world, of course, Valyrian steel is created with much more than just metals— it requires a spell and some Dragonfire. There’s no way scientists could reproduce it. But it’s fun to see how close we can get.

[Washington Post via Ryan Consell]

Lead image: HBO




As a bladesmith and a material scientist as well, I also considered the same thing. However, as much as I am a metallurgy person, I have read ALOT of books with the typical “magic metal” description: mithril, adamantine and Valyrian steel are just a few. A blade that can cleave other steels like a hot knife through butter, is light as a feather in your hand, tough as nails and usually requires some mystical know-how to produce. They are all the same really: some super metal revered by heroes and villains alike.

His idea of using a MMC isnt a bad one. The trick is coming up with a matrix that is harder and lighter than steel, while not being TOO brittle: something that is pretty tough to do. I think a (for properties anyway) a bulk metallic glass based composite might fit the bill. Although BMG’s are still in their industrial infancy, that might get pretty close. People have already made knives from them, but the inherent brittleness of the material would (at the moment) make them poor contenders for a large blade. Still, a promising idea for the future. Doesnt really touch the pattern-welded steel appearance though.

Magic is magic. Science gets close sometimes. They are just the fantasy version of the lightsabre.