Modern alchemy: scientists create a type of gold from plastic

A team of scientists has created an incredibly lightweight 18-carat gold using a plastic matrix instead of metal elements. The unusual alloy turned out to be almost 10 times less dense than traditional gold metal.

Scientists create gold from plastic.
Scientists create gold from plastic.


The 18-carat gold we all know consists of three-quarters gold and one-quarter copper and has a density of about 15 g/cm3. The density of the gold obtained by the research team is only 1.7 g/cm3, but it is still 18-carat gold.


  • The results of the study were published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

ETH researchers produced 18-carat gold, which is very light. It is based on a plastic matrix that replaces metallic alloying elements.

An 18-carat plastic nugget

Instead of using a metal alloy element, Raffaele Mezzenga, Leonie van't Hag and their colleagues at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, used protein fibres and a polymer latex to form a matrix into which they embedded fine gold nano-crystal discs. In addition, light gold contains countless tiny air pockets that are invisible to the eye.

First, the scientists added the ingredients to the water and created a dispersion. Then they added salt to turn it into a gel and replaced the water with alcohol. 


Next, they placed the alcohol gel in a pressure chamber with a carbon dioxide-laden atmosphere that allows them to dissolve into each other. In this way they obtained a homogeneous aerogel in the form of gauze.



Finally, they applied heat to the material in order to mould it while retaining the 18 carats.


Researchers managed to create gold similar to 18 karat, using plastic and can revolutionize the jewelry industry. It is as light as plastic but it can be handled much easier and the main thing, it does not lose the shine of traditional gold. https: // phys.org/news/2020-01-c arat-gold-nugget-plastic.html 
Scientists create a 18-carat gold nugget.
Scientists create a 18-carat gold nugget.
18-carat gold nugget made of plastic.
18-carat gold nugget made of plastic.


Researchers managed to create gold similar to 18 karat.


An 18-carat gold nugget made of plastic

ETH researchers have created an incredibly lightweight 18-carat gold, using a matrix of plastic in place of metallic alloy elements.

This gold has the material properties of plastic, says Mezzenga. However, it shines like metallic gold and can be polished and worked as desired. The latex in the matrix can also be replaced with other plastics, such as polypropylene.


Mezzenga points out that it will be in demand in watch and jewelry manufacturing as well as in chemical catalysis, electronic applications or radiation shielding.


Reference, scientists create a type of gold from plastic.

  1. Van 't Hag, Handschin S, Gschwend PM, Mezzenga R: Light gold: a colloidal approach using latex templates, gold nugget made of plastic. Advanced Functional Materials. 2020. 
  2. DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201908458,Light Gold: A Colloidal Approach Using Latex Templates.

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