Researchers at Leeds University in the UK have recently developed what we can currently say as the thinnest piece of gold. The 2D material consist of only two layers of atoms in the form of a sheet, as the lead researcher from Leeds' Molecular and Nanoscale Physics Group and the Leeds Institute of Medical Research, Dr. Sunjie Ye describes in Advanced Science.
To synthesize the material, the team added an inorganic acid that contains gold, chloroauric acid, and a reducing agent, sodium citrate acid aqueous solution, into methyl orange. They kept this undisturbed for 12 hours at ambient temperature. After this waiting period, the chloroauric acid was reduced to its metallic form with the methyl orange being the confinement agent to cause the formation of a two atom-thick sheet of gold. When placed underwater, the sheet of gold appears to be green, so the researchers have called it "gold nanoseaweed".
The researchers have found that the material may be used for a number of applications. First, it can be used as a catalyst. When they tested it, the team found that the 2D material is 10 times more efficient as a catalytic substrate as compared to existing 3D gold nanoparticles.
The ultrathin ultrasensitive material may also be used in the field of medicine in intricate analysis procedures. Being ultrasensitive will allow for the detection of analytes at very low concentrations, then possibly allowing early detection of diseases and monitoring of therapeutic effect for post-surgical cancer patients.
In the industrial setting, the material's catalytic properties could mean that it may have purpose in transforming industrial waste into some useful raw material. The researchers are looking into its usefulness in the synthesis of pharmaceutical molecules.
In the world of water and wastewater treatment, the ultrathin material has potential use in the degradation of organic materials present in the wastewater.
In the consistently growing field of semiconductors and electronics, the material would be very useful in technological innovation. As this type of commodity becomes more than just a need, developers look to innovate not only how they function, but also how they look. The ultraflexible sheets of gold may be used to form the basis of electronic components for bendable screens, electronic inks, and even transparent conducting displays.
With the extensive potential of the thin sheet of gold, the researchers are looking to produce the material on an industrial scale.