Scientists have figured out how to melt gold at room temperature.
An international team of researchers stumbled upon this revelation almost by accident.
Ludvig de Knoop, a postdoc at Chalmers University of Technology, was just interested to see how the highest magnification level of an electron microscope influenced gold atoms.
"I was really stunned by the discovery," he said, after finding that the surface layers had melted-at room temperature.
"This is an extraordinary phenomenon, and it gives us new, foundational knowledge of gold," De Knoop added.
Using computational modeling, the team learned that the surface-melted phase did not come from an increase in temperature, but rather defects in high electric fields.
Simply put, the gold atoms became excited.
When in close proximity, the atoms become tongue-tied, sweaty-palmed, and generally flustered-losing their ordered structure and releasing nearly all connections to each other.
"The discovery of how gold atoms can lose their structure in this way is not just spectacular, but also groundbreaking scientifically," according to Chalmers.
Together with the theoretician Mikael Juhani Kuisma of Finland's University of Jyväskylä, Knoop & Co. "Have opened up new avenues in materials science," the University said.
Researchers also found that it's possible to switch between a solid and molten structure, which could lead to new types of sensors, catalysts, transistors, and contactless components.
"Because we can control and change the properties of the surface atom layers, it opens doors to different types of applications," study co-author Eva Olsson, a professor in the Chalmers Department of Physics, said in a statement.
Do not expect to start a criminal enterprise by increasing the electric field, though.
"I would say that this is not possible," De Knoop told Digital Trends.
Melting the surface of any object larger than a couple nanometers wide (like his gold cone) "would require a voltage which is not available," he said.
Full details of the study were published in the journal Physical Review Materials.
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