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New Advances in Precious Metal Nano-particles

While it may seem that technologies that are designed to use less of these metals in manufacturing wouldn't be good for precious metal investing, but these developments are actually more likely to keep these metals vibrant in the development of new technologies.

Nanotechnology relies upon the unique properties that metals and other elements exhibit when made very, very small. The ability to manipulate materials a few atoms at a time into new materials is one of the most exciting fields in materials science, attracting some of the best scientific talent worldwide. Nanotech is usually defined as creating and manipulating molecular structures that are 100 nanometers across or smaller – often much smaller.

The development of fullerines and carbon nano-tubes in the 1980s were the first major developments in this field that was proposed by Nobel Prize-winning physicists as early as the 1950s. Metal oxides were the next development, allowing so-called “quantum” effects to be noted by researchers. At this scale, the laws of physics that govern the very small become more apparent, sometimes with astonishing results. Gold, for instance, turns to a reactive liquid at room temperature on the nano-scale.

In fact, long before the curious promise of nano-tech was conceived, scientists began their experiments in non-active, first generation nano-particles in the 1910s with precious metals. Gold was first to be studied as a colloid and described, though the research was largely theoretical, “pure” science, it laid the groundwork for the second-generation carbon research that developed decades later.

One recent development with platinum nano-wires is very exciting for precious metal investing interests. With the new-found ability to manipulate this very expensive and rare metal into wires that are thousands of times longer than previously thought, the ability to bring platinum-catalyzed fuel cell technology to the masses becomes much closer to fruition.

Commitments to fund “green energy initiatives” by the Obama Administration are another piece of welcome news to those who are leveraged in all the precious metals. Investing in the specific technologies that utilize precious metals are also bolstered into relatively safe investment options for those who wish to diversify their portfolios beyond physical precious metals bullion.

Silver nano-particles are used extensively as a disinfectant, protecting everything from counter tops and food containers to silver-impregnated fabrics that resist odors. In fact, the latter use has become widespread enough to create concerns among some over the toxicity of these particles. It is thought that their unregulated release into the environment and watershed, coupled with their ability to continue working at sewage plants, may have unintended deleterious effects on the beneficial microorganisms that life on Earth relies upon. One such example are the beneficial bacteria that are used to treat waste water such as that coming from washing machines.

With precious metal investing in gold and silver strong, platinum and palladium have sunk to historical lows over demand concerns, specifically from the auto industry. However, in an effort to comply with directives from the government to invest in carbon-free technologies, interest in both platinum and palladium investments as a means of achieving these major leaps in technology are increasingly being seen as a viable concern spurning precious metal investment in the coming years.

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Joseph Morton

April 18, 2009

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