LONDON (Dispatches) -- Scientists have created a new form of gold which is just two atoms thick -- the thinnest unsupported gold ever created.
Researchers at the University of Leeds measured the thickness of the gold to be 0.47 nanometres -- that is one million times thinner than a human finger nail. The material is regarded as 2D because it comprises just two layers of atoms sitting on top of one another. All atoms are surface atoms -- there are no 'bulk' atoms hidden beneath the surface.
The material could have wide-scale applications in the medical device and electronics industries -- and also as a catalyst to speed up chemical reactions in a range of industrial processes.
Laboratory tests show that the ultra-thin gold is 10 times more efficient as a catalytic substrate than the currently used gold nanoparticles, which are 3D materials with the majority of atoms residing in the bulk rather than at the surface.
Scientists believe the new material could also form the basis of artificial enzymes that could be applied in rapid, point-of-care medical diagnostic tests and in water purification systems.
The lead author of the paper, Dr Sunjie Ye, from Leeds' Molecular and Nanoscale Physics Group and the Leeds Institute of Medical Research, said: "This work amounts to a landmark achievement.