Researchers at the University of Leeds synthesized a gold nanosheet that is just two atoms thick, opening potential applications for electronics and medical devices and use in industrial chemical processes.
The gold sheet they created measured 0.47 nanometers, which is one million times thinner than a human fingernail. It is made up of two layers of atoms sitting atop each other.
Some gold nanoparticles now used as a catalytic substrate for manufacturing are thicker, so the new gold nanosheet is expected to be 10 times more efficient. The material could also be used to create artificial enzymes for medical diagnostic testing and in water purification.
“This work amounts to a landmark achievement,” said Sunjie Ye, lead researcher at Leeds Molecular and Nanoscale Physics group. “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 materials scientists to develop other 2-D metals. This method could innovate nanomaterial manufacturing.”
The announcement of the successful synthesis was made in the journal Advanced Science and reported in a statement by Leeds.
The gold nanosheet was synthesized by reducing chloroauric acid in a watery solution to its metallic form. Scientists used a confinement chemical that restricts the gold in the inorganic acid to form as a sheet just two atoms thick. The gold appears green in water and is shaped like seaweed, so it is described as gold nanoseaweed.
Because the nanosheets are so thin, nearly all the atoms are used in a catalytic process, making the sheets highly efficient. That efficiency gives manufacturers the potential for an economic advantage over other precious metals.
The two-dimensional nanosheets are flexible and could be used as the basis for electronic components in bendable screens, electronic inks and transparent conducting displays. Graphene was the first two-dimensional material ever created at the University of Manchester in 2004.