Gold atoms form cages, scientists discover

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Labs have discovered that gold atoms will form hollow cages that, conceivably, could house other atoms. Potentially, this could expand how gold is used to manufacture nanotechnology products or deliver medicines inside a person's body.

The gold cages are formed from around 16 to 18 atoms. The atoms form triangles and the triangles form a sphere. Carbon will form similar spheres, but it takes around 60 atoms to form a Buckyball, a sphere of pure carbon.

“This is the first time that a hollow cage made of metal has been experimentally proved,” said Lai-Sheng Wang, one of the lead researchers, in a prepared statement. Wang has not tried to insert foreign atoms into the cages, but the hollow cavity in the cages seems to provide the space to put some atoms in there.

Gold is studied quite a bit by nanotechnologists because of its properties. Gold, for instance, can amplify signals from other atoms. Some researchers believe that gold atoms could thus be used to detect cancers at very early stages.

Nanotechnology involves studying how atoms behave individually, rather than when lumped into together with thousands of other similar atoms. Nano aluminum, for instance, ignites when exposed to oxygen, something bulk aluminum doesn't do.

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    Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.

     

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