The big picture: Testing additionally showed that the sheets could be used as highly effective artificial enzymes and because they are flexible, they can also be used in bendable electronics, transparent conducting displays and electronic inks.

Researchers at the University of Leeds in England have developed a new type of gold that is just two atoms thick. Dubbed 2D gold, the material measures only 0.47 nanometers thick – or roughly a million times thinner than a human finger nail – and could have a profoundly positive impact on the electronic industry and in the medical field.

Lab tests revealed that the 2D gold is 10 times more efficient as a catalytic substrate than the gold nanoparticles currently in use. As such, manufacturers could get the same effect from using a smaller amount of gold, an obvious economic advantage when dealing with precious metal.

2D gold could further be viewed as a roadmap to help scientists develop other 2D metals.

Some will no doubt compare the 2D gold to the first 2D material ever created. Professor Stephen Evans, head of the Leeds Molecular and Nanoscale Research Group who supervised the research, cautioned that the integration of any new material into working products can take a long time, adding that you can’t force it to do everything you might want.

“With graphene, people have thought that it could be good for electronics or for transparent coatings—or as carbon nanotubes that could make an elevator to take us into space because of its super strength,” Evans said.

On the upside, he does seem more optimistic about 2D gold. “We know it will be more effective than existing technologies—so we have something that we believe people will be interested in developing with us.”

Masthead credit: gold glitter by 99Art