|Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have determined that this is the world's largest single crystal of gold. Photo: John Rakovan|
World's Largest Gold Crystal FoundGold is a chemical element with symbol Au (from Latin: aurum) and atomic number 79. In its purest form, it is a bright, slightly reddish yellow, dense, soft, malleable, and ductile metal. Chemically, gold is a transition metal and a group 11 element.
Gold often occurs in free elemental (native) form, as nuggets or grains, in rocks, in veins, and in alluvial deposits. It occurs in a solid solution series with the native element silver (as electrum) and also naturally alloyed with copper and palladium.
The lump of gold, which weighs 217.78 grams (about 7.7 ounces), was brought to Los Alamos to confirm whether it was a single crystal of gold, or a more common multiple-crystal structure. "The structure or atomic arrangement of gold crystals of this size has never been studied before, and we have a unique opportunity to do so," Miami University geologist John Rakovan said in a statement.
To determine the nugget's internal structure, Rakovan and his colleagues used two sophisticated machines: a neutron single-crystal diffraction (SCD) instrument, which determines the atomic arrangement of single crystals; and a high-pressure/preferred orientation (or HIPPO) instrument, which measures the crystal structure and the orientation of crystals in a polycrystalline material. These noninvasive techniques determined that the gold piece was, indeed, a very large and very rare single crystal of gold.
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