Gold is highly malleable and flexible. It can be beaten into thin sheets only a few millionths of an inch thick. These sheets, known as gold leaf, are have been applied decoratively on buildings and paintings for centuries.
Gold has also been used in dentistry for nearly 3,000 years. The first book published on dentistry, called Artzney Buchlein, which appeared in 1530, suggests that dentists filled cavities and rotten teeth with gold leaf.
Gold is used in space to reflect radiation and stabilize temperatures. Space vehicles are fitted with gold-coated polyester film to reflect infrared radiation and to help stabilize core temperatures. Without gold, darker coloured parts of a spacecraft would absorb significant amounts of heat. But not only the vehicles, astronauts are also protected using gold. Their helmets are covered by a visor that is coated with a thin layer of gold to filter out the sun’s harmful rays.
In the journal Science, researchers from Missouri University of Science and Technology confirm they have developed a way to “grow” thin layers of gold on single crystal wafers of silicon, remove the gold foils, and use them as substrates on which to grow other electronic materials. The research team’s discovery could revolutionize wearable or “flexible” technology research, greatly improving the versatility of such electronics in the future.