World’s thinnest gold at just two atoms thick

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Scientist at the university of Leeds have developed the thinnest unsupported gold ever created. The gold is 0.47 nano metres thick which is approximately one million times thinner than a human fingernail.

Due to the material being just two atoms thick, it is counted as a 2D material. Due to there only being surface level atoms, this could have wide-scale application in the medical device and electronics industry. The ultra-thin gold could also be used to speed up chemical reactions in a range of industries due to tests showing that it is ten times more efficient as a catalytic substrate than the existing gold nano particles.

Researchers from this new 2D material believe that it could also be utilised in the formation of artificial enzymes. The ultra-thin gold could be used in point-of-care medical diagnostic tests. Additionally, the material could also be used in water purification systems.

The main author of the study’s research paper, Dr Sunjie Ye, said: “This work amounts to a landmark achievement…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…This method could innovate nano material manufacturing.”

In order to begin synthesising the 2D gold sheet, researchers use an aqueous solution while moving on to adding chloroauric acid which is an inorganic substance containing gold. The chloroauric acid solution is reduced to its metallic form before a “confinement agent” is added to encourage the gold to form in a two atom thick sheet.

The leader of Leeds’ Molecular and Nanoscale Research Group, Professor Stephen Evans, believes there could be extensive practical applications of the new nano-gold sheet.

Evans said: “Gold is a highly effective catalyst. Because the nano sheets 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.”

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