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Physicists discover gold can be magnetic on the nanoscale
Date:3/3/2008

uster adsorbed on the surface of a film of magnesium oxide (MgO), an insulator which itself is supported by an underlying metallic silver substrate. The optimal configuration of the adsorbed gold nanocluster depends on the thickness of the underlying MgO film, and for an eight-layer film it was found to be a three-dimensional four-sided pyramid, with one of the sides contacting the magnesium oxide surface.

However, the researchers discovered that under the influence of an externally applied electric field, the aforementioned three-dimensional shape of the gold nanocluster is no longer the energetically favored structure. Instead, the optimal structure becomes a flat planar 20-atom gold island spread on the MgO surface.

Turning off the applied field or reversing its direction results in reverting the structure back to the pyramidal one. The origin of the nanocluster morphological change was found to relate to accumulation of excess electronic charge at the interface between the cluster and the magnesium oxide film. This excess charge, which stabilizes the planar nanocluster structure, originates from the underlying silver substrate, and its ability to penetrate to the cluster interface through the eight-layer thick MgO film depends on the presence of the externally applied driving electric field.

The researchers also discovered that the chemical activity of the adsorbed gold nanocluster varied significantly under the influence of the applied field, enhancing the low-temperature catalytic oxidation of CO to carbon dioxide.

We found that we can change in a controllable manner the physical as well as the chemical properties of the adsorbed nanostructure by applying an external voltage across the supported gold nanocluster, said Landman. I believe that this finding may introduce a potent control parameter into the chemistry of materials. The newly proposed method for tuning and controlling the structure and reactivity of nanostr
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Contact: David Terraso
david.terraso@comm.gatech.edu
404-385-2966
Georgia Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert  

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