Technology that Glitters in Gold: Solar Energy, Bioprinting and Tractor Beams
Researchers continue to come up with amazing new technologies utilizing gold.
We generally think of gold as an investment as well as money, but it is increasingly being used in high-tech applications. Gold’s conductivity and malleability make it suitable for a number of futuristic applications, from energy production to healthcare. Researchers are even using the metal in things that sound like they came out of a sci-fi book. In fact, the tech sector accounted for about 6% of gold demand in 2016.
A team of researchers in Japan has developed a material incorporating gold nanoparticles capable of harvesting a broader spectrum of sunlight in solar panels. According to AsianScientist, the new formulation makes traditional semiconductor material 60 times more efficient at splitting water to harvest hydrogen atoms. This could revolutionize hydrogen energy production.
Hydrogen ranks among the cleanest low-carbon fuels. It gives off energy when it combines with oxygen. The byproduct is water. But currently, the process of harvesting hydrogen molecules by splitting H2O takes more energy than the produced hydrogen gives back. AsianScientist explains how gold may make the process more efficient.
Water splitting is often driven by solar power, so-called ‘solar-to-hydrogen’ conversion. Materials like titanium oxide are traditionally used to convert sunlight to chemical energy for the photocatalytic reaction. However, these materials are inefficient because only the ultraviolet (UV) part of light is absorbed, the rest spectrum of sunlight is wasted. Now, a team in Osaka University has developed a material to harvest a broader spectrum of sunlight. The three-part composites of this material maximize both absorbing light and its efficiency for water splitting. The core is a traditional semiconductor, lanthanum titanium oxide (LTO). The LTO surface is partly coated with tiny specks of gold nanoparticles. Finally, the gold-covered LTO is mixed with ultrathin sheets of the element black phosphorus (BP), which acts as a light absorber.”
Last month, we reported on a process using gold that will ultimately improve medical implants and possibly lead to artificial muscles. Now, 3DPrint.com reports NASA is developing cellular bioprinting in space. It’s an extremely complex process made more difficult in the microgravity environment.
Because cell culture in microgravity can be technically and mechanically challenging, the application of magnetic tools to assist physical manipulation of the growing cultures could provide advantages to enhance experimental outcomes and facilitate the development of throughput systems for conducting high volume cell culture work in space.”
Researchers say incorporating gold atoms adds strength to the cultures in space. Consequently, researchers can handle the them with magnets, allowing for successful bioprinting. As an added bonus, the gold will not interfere with the cells’ normal functions.
Scientists say this development has great potential in the realm of cancer research.
An perhaps the most amazing technological breakthrough using gold – real-life tractor beams.
Researchers have simulated the first system in which particles can be manipulated by a beams of ordinary light. The advance brings us closer to real-world interactions between light and matter at atomic scales.
In other words, scientists are moving things around with light.
Granted, right now, the movable objects are only the size of molecules and bacteria. But it’s still a pretty incredible. Science Daily explains the potential applications.
Ultimately, this new principle might be applied to moving particles around inside a body, using light to control their position and activity, for new medical treatments. It might also find uses in optically based nanomachinery.”
Silver has long been associated with industrial and technological applications. Now gold is beginning to make its presence felt in this realm as well. Precious metals are literally helping build a better world.
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