A million times thinner than a fingernail, scientists have fabricated a material made up of only two dimensions.
It’s possible to take a piece of gold weighing roughly sixteen kilograms, and stretch and flatten it out to the size of a football field. Gold is a highly malleable material, which makes it ideal for a variety of uses in medicine, electronics, and industrial processes.
Researchers at the University of Leeds have created what is effectively a two-dimensional material. A piece of gold that, thanks to being comprised of only two surface atoms, has a measured thickness of 0.47 nanometers. To put that into perspective, it is a million times thinner than a human fingernail.
The researchers refer to their shiny creation as “nanoseaweed” due to it’s jagged shape and greenish shade. It is also very shiny, thanks to it’s surface-area-to-volume ratio. This means that there is a lot of space on the material for chemical reactions to occur.
One of the authors of the research study, Stephen Evans, has said that it’s size, combined with the fact that gold is a very effective catalyst, means that nanoseaweed would serve as a very efficient nanomaterial. Being made up of only two surface atoms with no others sandwiched in-between them, the material is not considered to have three dimensions.
This isn’t the first time scientists have experimented with 2D substances. Graphene, a carbon element that allows other elements to exist in different forms (such as graphite and charcoal), was first isolated by researchers Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester in 2004. The two of them received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for their work with the material, which is in demand for electronics and battery research.
Gold has several uses in electronic and medical technologies. One of the most notable uses is in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, where sodium aurothiomalate or sodium aurothioglucose are injected into patients. Gold isotope is also used in cancer treatments, where it serves as a microscopic source of radiation.
As nanoseaweed is extremely thin, it would be much cheaper to use than other gold nanoparticles. It would also be much more efficient thanks to those chemical reactions that can occur with it.