All that glisters is gold...

Nanoparticles of gold can catalyze oxidation reactions, but how they do this is something of a mystery. Now, researchers at the Nanoscience Centre (NSC) of the University of Jyväskylä in Finland have puzzled out the reactions using their computational prowess. It appears that nanoclusters of gold use ambient oxygen to oxidize themselves first, even at room temperature, and then transfer their raised oxidation state to the substrate compound. Intensive experimental work since the early 1980s has indicated that gold nanoparticles exhibit unexpected catalytic activity towards many industrially important chemical reactions. Moreover, the fact that they operate at room temperature gives them an energy-saving advantage over other approaches that is becoming an increasingly pressing issue for the "greening" of chemistry.