Unlocking the nano

A new way to unlock the potential of nanomaterials was reported in December in the journal Science. Yun Liu and colleagues at the National Institute for Standards and Technology's Center for Neutron Research and colleagues have developed a new method of atomic-layer deposition (ALD). ALD involves applying a high overpotential to deposit a layer of platinum metal on a surface and then to toggle this to an underpotential to generate a layer of hydrogen. The hydrogen remains in place only briefly and is then lost as they add each new layer of platinum. The surprising thing is that such thin-layer control is not usually observed, the hydrogen layer at underpotential is key to success. The discovery could lead to a new method for growing metal oxides or semiconductor layers at the atomic scale.