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By fusing a material used in bulletproof vests with gold, scientists have created unscratchable 18-karat gold.
The research was funded by the Swiss watchmaker Hublot.
The new gold will be used for jewelry and watches, although it could have other applications.
Now a research team from the EPFL in Switzerland, with support from Swiss watchmaker Hublot, have created a very hard high-quality gold. And recently, they unveiled the shiny result.
“What is radically new is being able to make something that is both extremely hard and 18-karat gold. The challenge was to stick with that boundary,” said Andreas Mortensen, a metallurgy professor at the EPFL in Switzerland who led the work. Metallurgy lecturer Ludger Weber, postdoc Reza Tavangar and materials engineer Senad Hasanovic collaborated with Mortensen to develop the new gold.
Others have been able to make hard gold in the past but they haven't been able to achieve the level of hardness required to meet the 18-karat standard, separating real gold from impure gold. Hublot filed for a patent on the new gold composite, Mortensen said. He called Hublot an adventurous company when it comes to designing with new materials.
To make the new gold, the EPFL team used boron carbide, a ceramic that’s one of the hardest materials in the world, along with diamonds. This material has numerous applications, including as a component in bulletproof vests.
First the ceramic was heated in an oven to more than 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit, producing a three-dimensional network almost like a scaffold, with just the right amount of pores. That network was then infiltrated with liquid gold, meaning the scientists pushed gold into the pores. Finally, the combination was solidified to form the composite material.
Mortensen said the new gold looks and feels distinctive. It’s harder to the touch than other gold, and has a darker hue. The material is so hard that no coating is needed to make it unscratchable. Although that’s an advantage to watch-wearers looking for durability, there is a trade-off because it’s slightly more fragile than pure gold that’s soft.
Originally posted by NeoVain
Sounds kinda retarded to me, since one of the unique qualities that make gold valuable is it´s uniquely high malleability and ductility. If the malleability(softness) is removed, of course the ductility should lower as well. What is left? Might as well use steel and paint it yellow... duh.edit on 27-12-2011 by NeoVain because: (no reason given)
Originally posted by TheRedneck
I must admit I am a bit confused about this.
The first thing I thought of was electrical contacts... another poster pointed out that gold is used as a non-corrosive conductor plating but is easily worn away. Boron, I believe, is an insulator. Carbon (diamonds) is a very poor conductor. So unless the composite has some properties that are counter-intuitive and unspecified, it would appear this alloy would be of little use as a conductor plating.
As for jewelry, which is specifically mentioned, I always thought gold was valued for its purity; this composite would by definition not be pure.
Maybe I'm missing something?
Boron carbide is known as a robust material having high hardness, high cross section for absorption of neutrons (i.e. good shielding properties against neutrons), stability to ionizing radiation and most chemicals. Its Vickers hardness (38 GPa) and fracture toughness (3.5 MPa·m1/2) approach the corresponding values for diamond (115 GPa and 5.3 MPa·m1/2).
Maybe that's what I am missing... maybe I am thinking of gold strictly in the monetary sense, and that is not applicable to this discussion?