Everything about it resembles gold. It can be polished like gold. It is gold, but it's also something more. Researchers at ETH Zurich University in Switzerland have taken everyone by storm by creating a 18-karat lightweight gold nugget.
Typically, 18-karat gold is an alloy of 75% gold and 25% of one or more other metals, such as copper or silver. This miraculous nugget uses plastics instead of metal for that 25%. The usage of plastic can now enable creating gold that weighs 5 to 10 times less than a traditional nugget. This could make wearing jewellery much less of a burden.
The research team used protein fibres and polymer latex as a matrix and embedded gold nanocrystals to form the material, making it look like regular 18-karat gold. What remains hidden from view are all the invisible air pockets in the nugget. The researchers said they can also create a type of "plastic gold" that mimics the metal's melting process at much lower temperatures than standard gold. The team published a paper on its lightweight gold in the journal Advanced Functional Materials last week.
The gleaming material could be used to make lightweight jewellery, but is also “suitable for chemical catalysis, electronics applications or radiation shielding." This plastic gold appears to have a bright and shiny future ahead.