Midas touch: scientists discover gold nanoparticles

June 24th, 2008 - 12:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, June 24 (IANS) Scientists have for the first time discovered gold nanoparticles, setting to rest speculation about whether they existed at all. Scientists of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said they discovered these particles in western Australia.

“In the southern areas of the state, groundwater is very salty and acidic. This water dissolves primary gold and re-deposits it as pure gold crystals on fracture surfaces and in open pore spaces,” said Rob Hough, who led the search for the nanoparticles.

“On investigation of these crystals, there appeared to be a dark band across them. However, high magnification imaging showed the band was in fact, a mass of gold nanoparticles and nanoplates.”

These gold nanoparticles are in fact identical to those being manufactured in laboratories around the world for their unique properties.

The research team concluded that gold nanoparticles imaged represented the ‘invisible’ gold in the clay, and that this nanosized gold was common in similar environments.

“The gold nanoparticles have not been identified earlier because they are transparent to electron beams and effectively invisible,” Hough said.

“However, they are probably a common form of gold in this type of natural environment worldwide, where saline water interacts with gold deposits. They also provide the first direct observation of the nanoscale mobility of gold during weathering.”

With gold fetching around Australian $950 an ounce and expected to rise, this study is good news for Australia’s gold explorers.

The findings of the study have been presented in a paper published in the latest issue of the journal Geology.

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