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Video: How a team of researchers melted gold at room temperature
This could come in handy in a lot of cases.
The researchers at Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology have found a new way to melt gold at room temperature. Yes, you read that right, the team has achieved this feat by applying an electric field to a cone-shaped gold object.
The effect could be seen clearly through an advanced electron microscope. At this magnification level, the researchers saw two to three atomic layers of gold melting. However, increasing the electric field won't make the system melt larger blocks.
"We saw that a few atomic surface layers melted, meaning that the gold atoms moved around a lot and lost their ordered and solid structure," physicist Dr. Ludvig de Knoop told Digital Trends. "The discovery was surprising since it had not been observed before. It was also very exciting when we learned that we could revert the surface melted layer back to being solid by decreasing the electric field."
The understand this better, the team used computational modeling, which showed that the surface melted phase wasn't because of the increase in temperature. What the models showed was that defects form easily at the surface in the high electric fields that we applied to the cone - hence creating a disordered, or surface melted layer," said Dr. Mikael Kuisma.
The discovery is huge a thing on a science level, but it could also be of use on practical applications. Professor Eva Olsson believes that the ability to shift between a solid and molten structure could pave way for various novel applications. These could be used in a line of sensors, catalysts, contactless components, and a lot more.
"The reason for this is that the gold cone only is a couple of nanometers wide at the apex. So for any practical applications to be feasible, some kind of nano-patterning will be required. In other words, melting the surface of any larger object would require a voltage which is not available," said Ludvig de Knoop.