OK, it’s not quite forged in Mount Doom but this tiny ring caught my eye today. A full 22nm in diameter, it’s made using a tobacco mosaic virus coat protein as a template. The ring self assembles from solution, with 10 nanoparticles interacting with arginine residues on the outside edge of the protein. Each nanoparticle is between 3.5 and 5nm in diamter, which equates (if I’m still able to do basic maths correctly) to around 6 x 10-19g of gold, or, at today’s prices, £2.17 x 10-17, possibly the cheapest bit of jewellery ever!
Or perhaps not, as I imagine the manufacturing costs and overheads are a bit higher than an ordinary jeweller’s.
So why bother? Well gold rings of this size are predicted to have interesting optical properties, and perhaps even have negative optical permeability or refractive index, which could have amazing applications. But how do you know if you can’t make them? And make them easily.
In the meantime, we in the office will just keep making bad Lord of the Rings based puns.
The research is published in Nano Letters, DOI: 10.1021/nl203368v.