Japan nano-tech team creates palladium-like alloy: report

Dec 30, 2010

Japanese researchers have created an alloy with properties similar to palladium, a precious metal used in many high-tech goods, a news report said Thursday, dubbing the breakthrough "present-day alchemy".

Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Kitagawa and his team said they used nano-technology to combine rhodium and silver, elements which do not usually mix, to produce the new composite, the Yomiuri daily said.

The alloy has similar properties to , which is used in cars' emission-reducing catalytic converters as well as in computers, mobile phones, flatscreen TVs and dentistry instruments.

Like other white metals, such as silver and platinum, palladium is expensive, with its deposits largely limited to South Africa and Russia.

Palladium also has applications in the production of fuel cells -- a clean and that produces electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen, with water as the only byproduct.

To make the new alloy, the Kyoto team used nano-technology to "nebulise" the rhodium and silver and gradually mixed them with heated alcohol, with the two metals mixed stably at the atomic level, the report said.

Japan's industry ministry has listed 31 rare metals, including palladium and lithium, which are used in industrial products, such as and batteries. Of these, 17 elements are called rare earth minerals.

Resource-poor Japan has tried to shift from its dependence on China, which controls the bulk of global rare earth production.

Kitagawa said he hopes to create more using nano-technology, without specifying which ones, the Yomiuri said.

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gmurphy
4.6 / 5 (12) Dec 30, 2010
It seems that China's attempt to bludgeon Japan with embargos has resulted in a flurry of innovation from Japanese technicians and scientists.
antialias_physorg
2.5 / 5 (8) Dec 30, 2010
Science is not like in the cartoons. You don't go "there's a crisis on, I'd better invent stuff in the next 5 minutes"

Research like this is the culmination of years and years (sometimes decades) of patient work.

Plus: scientists normally couldn't care less what some politicians are up to.
danlgarmstrong
5 / 5 (5) Dec 30, 2010
Scientists need to eat, and they also like attention. Hence, they will research topics that are likely to receive funding, and put themselves in the spotlight if it solves problems that are being focused on by the media. Of course, the science behind the latest development is built up the result of years of research by many scientists from many places. But the team from Kyoto University put it together in a new way and fully deserve kudos for what they did.
sstritt
4.2 / 5 (5) Dec 30, 2010
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't rhodium another expensive platinum group metal just like palladium, also largely limited to Russia and South Africa?
antialias_physorg
3.8 / 5 (5) Dec 30, 2010
Scientists need to eat, and they also like attention. Hence, they will research topics that are likely to receive funding,


As a scientist myself I have to say you're completely wrong.

We each have our area of specialty. This is a specialty acquired over YEARS (sometimes decades). We can't just switch to another area of research because "the money over there is good". We do what interests _us_ (not the politicians).

Fun is the motivational factor that has kept people like me learning one area of expertise (which doesn't pay anything) and later on working on it. Pay is secondary. If we wanted to get rich then there'd be other modes of doing so with far less effort.

Attention is also pretty low on the list of priorities for a scientist. Who cares whether some high-school dropout (or politician with barely more education) thinks your research is cool? Our peers are the ones who judge - not some guy in a suit, nor some prize, nor the numbers in your bank account.
SteveL
4.6 / 5 (5) Dec 30, 2010
It doesn't require genius for a country to acknowledge that their economy is dependent on certain resources. If those resources are controlled by a country who tends to be less than friendly, then the leadership of that country would be wise to invest in replacement or alternate technologies. These scientists in Japan, and elsewhere, likely started this line of research years ago.
KBK
3.5 / 5 (4) Dec 30, 2010

As a scientist myself I have to say you're completely wrong.
~
Attention is also pretty low on the list of priorities for a scientist. Who cares whether some high-school dropout (or politician with barely more education) thinks your research is cool? Our peers are the ones who judge - not some guy in a suit, nor some prize, nor the numbers in your bank account.


That may be true, but scientists don't live in isolation and this above is the usual aspects of psychology that we all have to deal with.

So it may be that you believe the above but that is not a reality. The "reality" is that science has to integrate with the 'outer world'.

The outer world is much more impactful on the sciences that are investigated, than those within science tend to like to believe...and thus your comment borders of false bravado. Sad, but true.

As well, invention should integrate human values, otherwise it can border on being dangerous or detrimental.

Consider impact before acting, IMHO.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (5) Dec 30, 2010
So it may be that you believe the above but that is not a reality.

Hard as it may seem to grasp: I live that reality (and I have yet to meet a fellow scientist who doesn't share that attitude). Go be a scientist. Go to conferences. _Meet_ actual scientists. Then come back and we'll argue again.

As for human values: In this case scientists are no less ethical than anyone out there (mostly more so I'd argue). Sometimes we invent 'fire'. But you'd be hard pressed to find the scientist who actually uses it for his own ends (apart from in Hollywood movies).

The politicos need to consider the impact. That's what _they_ are being paid for.

Mostly the problem is that while we're researching stuff the implications can't even be fathomed. Could Röntgen have known that X-rays can cause cancer? Could Einstein have known that his formula would give us atomic energy (or the H-bomb)?

I think you have a very naive view of science and scientists.
Parsec
4 / 5 (2) Dec 30, 2010

As a scientist myself I have to say you're completely wrong.

We each have our area of specialty. This is a specialty acquired over YEARS (sometimes decades). We can't just switch to another area of research because "the money over there is good". We do what interests _us_ (not the politicians).

Fun is the motivational factor that has kept people like me learning one area of expertise (which doesn't pay anything) and later on working on it. Pay is secondary. If we wanted to get rich then there'd be other modes of doing so with far less effort.

Attention is also pretty low on the list of priorities for a scientist. Who cares whether some high-school dropout (or politician with barely more education) thinks your research is cool? Our peers are the ones who judge - not some guy in a suit, nor some prize, nor the numbers in your bank account.

Nicely said and right on the mark. I wish more people understood this.
ormondotvos
5 / 5 (2) Dec 30, 2010
Scientists are humans.
They all have human brains.
QED, as they say.
maxcypher
5 / 5 (1) Dec 31, 2010
I think this thread hits at the core of what's wrong with a lot of comments on this site: if people could take @antialias' comments seriously, then they would understand what science is all about.
Egleton
3 / 5 (2) Jan 01, 2011
I am on the scientists' side. The world is full of useless critics.

This piece is interesting for me as it feeds directly into Condensed Matter Nuclear Reactions. The next global conference will be in Chennai, India.

Link=http://www.lenr-canr.org/
Skepticus
3 / 5 (2) Jan 02, 2011
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't rhodium another expensive platinum group metal just like palladium, also largely limited to Russia and South Africa?


Check the current price of rhodium. It will give you nosebleed. Although this new alloy is a commendable achievement, sadly it is still traped by the cost and rarity issues of the Pt group metals.
beelize54
1 / 5 (1) Jan 02, 2011
Rhodium is the rarest element from platinum group metal, so I don't see a huge economical space for wide replacement of palladium.