Leeds University scientists have created the world’s thinnest unsupported gold which is just two atoms thick.
The thickness of this two dimensional (2D) gold is said to be 0.47 nanometers – one million times thinner than a human finger nail.
Unlike 3D gold nanoparticles, all atoms in the material are surface atoms and there are no ‘bulk’ atoms hidden beneath its surface.
According to the scientists, the new gold material could have wide-scale applications in the medical device, water purification and electronics industries.
It could also be used as a catalyst to speed up chemical reactions in a range of industrial processes.
Laboratory tests have shown that the ultra-thin gold is 10 times more efficient as a catalytic substrate than current 3D gold nanoparticles.
“This work amounts to a landmark achievement,” notes lead author of the paper, Dr Sunjie Ye.
“Not only does it open up the possibility that gold can be used more efficiently in existing technologies, it is providing a route which would allow material scientists to develop other 2D metals.”
Professor Stephen Evans, who supervised the research, said that considerable gains could be achieved from using these ultra-thin gold sheets:
“Gold is a highly effective catalyst. Because the nanosheets are so thin, just about every gold atom plays a part in the catalysis. It means the process is highly efficient.”
“Our data suggests that industry could get the same effect from using a smaller amount of gold, and this has economic advantages when you are talking about a precious metal.”
The gold flakes are also flexible, meaning they could form the basis of electronic components for bendable screens, electronic inks and transparent conducting displays.
Image and content: University of Leeds