Swiss researchers develop a new technique that maintains the structure of gold
Researchers have developed a new annealing technique that can maintain the structure of silver and gold when these metals are combined into alloys. Annealing is the process of heating a glass or metal and allowing it to cool slowly in an attempt to harden it and remove internal stresses.
Silver, gold, aluminum and copper are elements used in the manufacture of optical components due to their reflective properties. For example, silver and gold are known to reflect blue light and red light respectively.
For the study, the team of researchers, led by Olivier Martin, focused on developing a low-temperature annealing technique that would be effective for a mixture of alloys made up of all metals. The researchers started by heating the silver and gold to 300oh C for eight hours before raising the temperature to 450oh C for half an hour. This led to the production of a gold-silver alloy film, which could reflect the full spectral range.
In the article, the researchers said their findings would be useful in manufacturing holographic optical elements and contact lenses, among other optical components.
Martin added in a statement to the media that the researchers found they could combine the optical effects of silver and gold into a single material by making an alloy of the two metals. He noted that these metals are relevant to researchers studying them at the nanoscale because nanostructures possess a different optical response than bulky materials. At the nanoscale, light does not interact in the same way as it would with the same metal in larger quantities.
However, conducting research on the nanostructures of these metals is not easy because conventional silver and gold alloys are forged at temperatures between 800oh C and 1000oh C. These high temperatures generally change the nanostructured shape of these metals.
The new annealing technique developed by the researchers has shown that it can retain the structure of silver and gold in alloys. This is different from current annealing techniques, which do not maintain the structure of these metals. Study co-author Jeonghyeon Kim said the low-temperature technique helped produce well-alloyed materials.
The scientists also studied different alloy ratios, observing that the optical effects changed as they added more silver or gold to the mix. Martin thinks the technique could be used in more everyday applications, noting that it can be used in clock and watch faces.
The results of the study have been published in the journal “Advanced Materials”. It was carried out by scientists from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.
As more and more applications for different precious metals emerge, precious metal mining companies such as Hecla Mining Company (NYSE: HL) are sure to continue to deliver value to their shareholders well into the future.
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