Most people are probably aware of the precious metals gold, silver, and platinum, but in fact there are eight in the world which are considered worth of the title “precious” because of their rarity, brilliance, and practical use. The other five are palladium, rhodium, iridium, ruthenium, and osmium.
The properties of these metals are often enhanced by creating alloys, in which they are mixed with other metals or substances to create materials like white gold and sterling silver.
But now, a team of researchers at Kyoto University have made an alloy that no one has ever accomplished in human history by combining all eight precious metals into a single alloy.
It’s an extremely difficult task, and comparable to attempting to mix water, oil, yogurt, tabasco sauce, orange juice, vodka, maple syrup, grape Kool-Aid, and green tea in to a unified substance. You might be able to get a couple of those ingredients to mix, but not all of them at once.
To accomplish this unprecedented alloy, the researchers created a solution with ions of all eight metals in equal measure and added them to a reducing agent at a temperature of 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit). The reducing agent donates the necessary electrons for the different ions to bond and the alloy can be successfully made.
That is of course way easier said than done, and something that humankind has dreamed of but been unable to do in the past 5,000 years since the Bronze Age began. Needless to say, readers of the news in Japan were quite jazzed about it.
“Does this mean we can finally make a Gundam?”
“This could mean a Nobel Prize!”
“Wow! A real chogokin (super alloy)!”
“Is this alchemy?”
“Time to make a legendary sword!”
“Is it the gundarium alloy?”
“What color will it be if you mix them all together? I want to see it!”
Unfortunately there isn’t much to see at the moment. The successful experiment has yielded an amount only measurable in nanometers which is around the scale of DNA strands. However, with the technique they developed, the team says that mass production of this alloy is possible with the right funding.
That’s great because even though the feat itself is impressive, it also has the potential for life-changing applications. Up until now, platinum has been the go-to catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells, but in 2020 this team discovered that an alloy of platinum and five precious metals was twice as efficient. Now, the eight-metal alloy showed a 10-fold increase in catalytic activity in hydrogen fuel cells.
This was also achieved only when making an alloy of the eight metals in equal amount. By adjusting the relative quantities in different ways, an even more efficient catalyst could be found to help power hydrogen fuel cells, making their widespread use more of a realistic alternative to current energy sources.
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