Scientists have created the world’s thinnest gold which is just two atoms thick or one million times leaner than a human finger nail. The researchers at the University of Leeds in the UK measured the thickness of the gold to be 0.47 nanometres, the thinnest unsupported gold ever created.
The material is regarded as two-dimensional (2D) because it comprises just two layers of atoms sitting on top of one another. The material could have wide-scale applications in the medical device and electronics industries, and also as a catalyst to speed up chemical reactions in a range of industrial processes.
Laboratory tests show that the ultra-thin gold is 10 times more efficient as a catalytic substrate than the currently used gold nanoparticles, which are three dimensional (3D) materials with the majority of atoms residing in the bulk rather than at the surface. Scientists believe the new material could also form the basis of artificial enzymes that could be applied in rapid, point-of-care medical diagnostic tests and in water purification systems.
“This work amounts to a landmark achievement,” said Sunjie Ye, from University of Leeds. “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 nanomaterial manufacturing,” he added. The research team is looking to work with industry on ways of scaling-up the process.