Feeds

Blackadder style chemists transform gold into purest ... purple

Descendant of James Watt in fruity feat

Business security measures using SSL

Boffins in Utah have achieved a Blackadder-esque scientific feat by turning gold into purest purple. It's hoped that this will lead to a novel means of harvesting solar power.

According to a statement issued yesterday by Utah uni Brigham Young, local chemistry prof Richard Watt and students working in his lab came to suspect – for reasons best known to themselves – that a certain type of protein would respond to sunlight as the chlorophyll in green plants does: that is it would harvest solar energy in an endothermic chemical reaction, potentially allowing that energy to be released later.

In the case of plants, carbon dioxide is broken down into carbon and oxygen, which can later be recombined in myriad ways to generate heat, power animal metabolisms etc etc.

Watt and his colleagues' approach was slightly different. According to the BYU spokespersons:

They started with citric acid from oranges and mixed it with the protein. Next they dissolved gold powder into the solution. Then they put vials of the yellow-colored mixture in direct sunlight and crossed their fingers in the hope that it would turn purple.

Here's the reason why: If it turned purple, that would signal that the gold atoms had received electrons and used the donated energy to bunch together as small, purple-colored nanoparticles. And that would mean that the protein used the sunlight to excite the citric acid and trigger a transfer of energy.

Success was theirs: within 20 minutes, Watt held in his mortal hands a flask of purest ... purple.

The team believe that the purple sunlight-storing protein can be incorporated into a battery or fuel cell and so output its solar harvest in the form of electricity.

Full boffinry detail is available here courtesy of the Journal of Nanoparticle Research. Readers may be interested to note that Professor Watt is apparently a descendant of James Watt, the 18th-century Scottish engineer who famously improved the Newcomen steam engine and in the process kick-started the Industrial Revolution (though there are those who'd argue that his rigorously enforced patents thereafter held it back somewhat). ®

Bootnote

For those who are missing the Blackadder reference: we refer to the episode in the second series where Lord Percy attempts to repair Blackadder's finances by alchemy – the transmutation of base matter into gold. He only manages to create an unpleasant substance referred to as "purest green", however.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Bacon-related medical breakthrough wins Ig Nobel prize
Is there ANYTHING cured pork can't do?
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.