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The finest gold dust in the world
Date:5/30/2012

he oxygen atoms of the topmost layer are not aligned in perfectly straight lines, they are bent into wiggles by the atoms below. At the points where the lines of oxygen atoms are close to each other, the gold atoms attach permanently without losing grip. Even if the surface is heated, the gold atoms stay put only at 500 degrees celsius they start forming clusters.

"When a gold atom hits the iron oxide surface, it diffuses to one of the sites where it can be attached to the surface", says Gareth Parkinson. That way, many single gold atoms can be placed close to each other. When a gold atom hits a position already occupied by another gold atom, however, the two bond and start moving across the surface, picking up additional gold atoms along the way. When they have reached a critical size of at least five atoms, they become immobile again and the miniature gold nugget comes to rest.

New Paths for New Research

Ulrike Diebold expects that the new method will answer important open questions about catalysis. "We have created an ideal model system for probing the chemical reactivity of single atomic species", says Diebold. The recent experiments will also help to advance theoretical research: the quantum mechanically complex bonding between single atoms and this particular surfaces provide an excellent test case for theoretical calculations of highly correlated electron systems.


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Contact: Florian Aigner
florian.aigner@tuwien.ac.at
43-158-801-41027
Vienna University of Technology
Source:Eurekalert  

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