Scientists Develop Real Gold Foam As Light As Air

Posted: Nov 30 2015, 7:23am CST | by , Updated: Nov 30 2015, 11:21pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

Scientists Develop Real Gold Foam as Light as Air
Even when it seems unbelievable: this is a genuine photograph, in which nothing has been faked. The 20 carats gold foam is lighter than milk foam. (Photo: Gustav Nyström and Raffaele Mezzenga / ETH Zurich)
  • New Type of Gold weighs as much as a Feather

A new type of gold invented by scientists weighs as much as a feather. In fact, it could actually float on the surface froth of a cup of coffee with ease.

A novel foam made of pure gold is so light that it almost weighs as much as the surrounding air. This special gold foam happens to be the lightest variety of the precious metal invented so far.

It is exactly 1000 times lighter than ordinary gold mined from the ore contained in subterranean rocks. However, the difference between the two cannot be told via the naked eye and proper discernment requires handling.

This new form of gold foam has a myriad of applications. A single nugget of this gold can be put on top of a cappuccino and it will float like a raft above the frothy surface. This is a miracle in the making.

Despite the skepticism, this has actually been demonstrated. It is actually a 3D mesh of gold that mainly comprises a series of pores. It happens to be the most featherweight gold nugget ever invented by science.

Termed “aerogel” this porous gold is not only lighter than water, it is almost as light as the surrounding atmosphere. It even has a metallic glow to it.

"The so-called aerogel is a thousand times lighter than conventional gold alloys. It is lighter than water and almost as light as air," says Mezzenga.

There is a saying to the effect that “all that glitters is not gold”. But in this case it most definitely is. Aerogel is ductile and able to be twisted into various shapes by human hands. 98% of it is pure air.

The rest is a network of gold filaments and particles. Approximately one fifth of this aerogel consists of milk protein fibrils. Thus it comprises 20 carat gold.

The heating of milk proteins was the first step in the creation of this wondrous substance. These were then steeped in a gold salt solution. Crystallization occurred and thus a gel-like gold fiber was produced as a result.

The biggest hurdle was the drying process. It could have been destroyed in the evaporation procedure. Thus instead of air being the medium, carbon dioxide was used in the drying scheme to preserve the gold particles.

All in all, it was an effort by several scientists from various fields of endeavor. The whole arrangement was one of adding substances to a scaffolding in the same manner as stem cells are used to create organs.

The copycat creation of the gold alloy took place on a fine level. At high pressures the aerogel tends to conduct electricity. It could be put to many uses in the future.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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