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Tiny Metal Particles Offer Unique Potential

A new method of producing ultrafine metal powders offers potential as an electroplating substitute. In addition, the approach is eventually expected to be able to produce carbon nanotubes and fabricate circuit boards or other super-small microelectronics, says lead researcher Jogender Singh at the Applied Research Laboratory of Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa. To make a silver powder, Singh puts silver nitrate in a blender with a reducing agent at room temperature. Next, he whirls the mixture while irradiating it in bursts with a laser. As the laser burst hits the liquid, it creates a tiny "hot spot" where the silver nitrate and a reducing agent can react. The result is a tiny, virus-sized particle of silver. Singh can control the size and, to an extent, the shape of particles by altering the laser energy, rotation speed, and constituents of the reaction. The process is available for licensing.

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