Swiss Researchers Develop New Technique That Maintains Gold’s Structure

Researchers have developed a new annealing technique that can maintain silver and gold’s structure when these metals are combined in alloys. Annealing is the process of heating a glass or metal and allowing it to slowly cool in an effort to toughen it and remove internal stresses.

Silver, gold, aluminum and copper are elements used in manufacturing optical components due to their reflective properties. For instance, silver and gold are known to reflect blue light and red light respectively.

For the study, the team of researchers, which was led by Olivier Martin, focused on the development of a low-temperature annealing technique that would be effective for an alloy mixture made up of any metals. The researchers started by heating both silver and gold to 300o C for eight hours before increasing the temperature to 450o C for half an hour. This led to the production of an alloyed film of gold-silver, which could reflect the full spectral range.

In the paper, the researchers stated that their findings would be useful in manufacturing holographic optical elements and contact lenses, among other optical components.

Martin added in a media statement that the researchers discovered that they could combine the optical effects of silver and gold into one material by manufacturing an alloy of the two metals. He noted that these metals were relevant to researchers who studied them at the nanoscale, as nanostructures possess an optical response that was different from those of bulky materials. At the nanoscale, light doesn’t interact the same way it would with the same metal in a bigger quantity.

However, conducting research on the nanostructures of these metals isn’t easy because conventional silver and gold alloys are forged at temperatures between 800o C and 1000o C. These high temperatures usually alter the nanostructure form of these metals.

The new annealing technique the researchers developed showed that it could maintain the structure of silver and gold in alloys. This is different from current annealing techniques, which don’t maintain the structure of these metals. The study’s coauthor, Jeonghyeon Kim, stated that the low-temperature technique helped produce well-alloyed materials.

The scientists also investigated different alloy ratios, observing that the optical effects changed as they added more silver or gold to the mixture. Martin believes that the technique could be used in more everyday applications, noting that it may be used in clock-and-watch dials.

The study’s findings were reported in the “Advanced Materials” journal. It was carried out by scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

As more applications for different precious metals emerge, precious metals extraction companies such as Hecla Mining Company (NYSE: HL) are sure to keep delivering value to their shareholders well into the future.

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