By Will Soutter
A research team from the University of Birmingham has devised a technique to image gold on the nanoscale by utilizing a novel probe beam to visualize the atomic arrangement of a 20-atom gold cluster.
The study findings have been reported in Nanoscale, a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry. For several years, researchers have hypothesized the structure of gold and other materials, and a decade ago scientists in the United States proposed the structure of a tetrahedral pyramid comprising 20 atoms. With this technique, Birmingham researchers for the first time can uncover this atomic structure by observing the cluster through an electron microscope.
Gold is inert as it is a noble metal and thus has resistance to contamination. However, gold demonstrates high chemical activity at the nanoscale, thus enabling it to be utilized as a catalyst to control chemical reactions. Metal atom clusters are utilized in catalysis in a variety of industries, which include pharmaceuticals, perfumery, fine chemicals, oil refining, food, and in fuel cells for use in clean power systems for vehicles.
Lead investigator, Richard Palmer, Professor of Experimental Physics and Head of the Nanoscale Physics Research Laboratory at the University of Birmingham, informed that the research team is trying to accelerate the production rate of these very accurately defined nano-objects to deliver to firms for applications, including catalysis. Selective processes produce less waste and eliminate adverse byproducts, thus leading to a green chemistry utilizing gold.