Feeds

Blackadder style chemists transform gold into purest ... purple

Descendant of James Watt in fruity feat

The Power of One Infographic

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.

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.