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Japan Scientists Create Palladium-like Alloy

January 1, 2011

Scientists in Japan have created an alloy that is similar to a precious metal used in many high-tech products, according to a news report on Thursday, calling the breakthrough “present-day alchemy.”

Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Kitagawa and colleagues used nanotechnology to combine rhodium and silver, elements that usually do not mix, to produce the new composite, which is very similar to palladium, the Yomiuri daily said.

Palladium is used in emission-reducing catalytic converters and in computers, mobile phones, flat panel TVs, and dentistry instruments. Palladium is an expensive material, with its deposits mostly limited to South Africa and Russia.

Palladium also has applications in the production of fuels cells used for clean and renewable energy.

To make the new alloy, Kitagawa and colleagues used nanotechnology to “nebulize” the rhodium and silver and gradually mix them with heated alcohol. They were able to mix the two metals stably at the atomic level, the report said.

Japan’s industry ministry lists 31 rare metals, which are used in the production of industrial products, such as electronic devices and batteries. Of these, 17 are considered rare earth minerals.

Japan is trying to shift from dependence on China, which controls most of global rare earth production.

Kitagawa told AFP he hopes to create more alloys using nanotechnology, without specifying which ones, reported the Yomiuri.

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