Gilding is the process of coating intricate artifacts with precious metals. Ancient Egyptians and Chinese coated their sculptures with thin metal films using gilding—and these golden sculptures have resisted corrosion, wear, and environmental degradation for thousands of years. The middle and outer coffins of Tutankhamun, for instance, are gold leaf gilded, as are many other ancient treasures.
In a new study, Sameh Tawfick, an assistant professor of Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, inspired by this ancient process, has added a single layer of carbon atoms, known as graphene, on top of metal leaves—doubling the protective quality of gilding against wear and tear.
The study, “Gilding with Graphene: Rapid Chemical Vapor Deposition Synthesis of Graphene on Thin Metal Leaves,” is published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials. The researchers coated thin metal leaves of palladium with a single layer of graphene.
Metal leaves, or foils, offer many advantages as a scalable coating material, including their commercial availability in large rolls and their comparatively low price. By bonding a single layer of graphene to the leaves, Tawfick and his team demonstrated unexpected benefits, including enhanced mechanical resistance. Their work presents exciting opportunities for protective coating applications on large structures like buildings or ship hulls, metal surfaces of consumer electronics, and small precious artifacts or jewelry.
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