Nanoalloys - the future of energy and medical research


Nanotechnology has fast become an indispensable tool for activities of the production processes, including rapid tests for Covid, sunscreens, or antibacterial surfaces. Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale, or a billionth of a meter known as a nanometer. Their success derives from the innovative characteristics that nanomaterials possess compared to materials with ordinary dimensions or molecular chemical compounds.

When nanomaterials interact with light from the sun or a laser, they undergo the so-called optical properties, which is of great interest to researchers. A category of nanomaterials that are promising, yet largely unexplored, include optical properties of metallic nanoparticles composed of different elements that are called nanoalloys.

Recently published in Nature Communications, the study Accurate prediction of the optical properties of nanoalloys with both plasmonic and magnetic elements, was conducted by a research team coordinated by Prof Vincenzo Amendola of the Department of Chemical Sciences at the University of Padua. The work provides an effective and sustainable methodology for predicting optical properties of nanoalloys accurately using computers. Therefore, researchers are no longer forced to create nanoalloys to understand its interaction with light, thus saving time and precious resources.

Prof Amendola explains, “The validity of our methodology was verified by taking as reference both well-known alloys (Au-Ag) and other particularly interesting nanoalloys because they are made up of noble metals such as gold and metals abundant in nature but endowed with magnetic and catalytic properties such as cobalt and iron These nanoalloys, called magnetic-plasmonic hold properties of the two constituents and fall into the category of nanomaterials that are difficult to synthesize since elements such as gold and iron or cobalt do not mix spontaneously in ordinary conditions. In fact, it was possible to obtain these compounds through a synthesis technique based on the laser ablation of a bimetallic sheet immersed in a liquid, taking advantage of the advanced skills of my laboratory in this area.”

The study offers a starting point for the identification of new nanoalloys with specific optical properties necessary for applications in the conversion of solar energy rather than in the detection of proteins and their structure, or of exotic and still little investigated phenomena such as the manipulation of photons with magnetic fields and vice versa through nanomaterials, which would pave the way for ultra-fast computers and new categories of ultra-technological optical devices.