His team created a solution containing equal quantities of rhodium and silver, turned the solution into a mist and mixed it little by little with heated alcohol to produce particles of the new alloy. Each particle is 10 nanometers in diameter and atoms of the two metals are equally mixed.
The new alloy has the same properties as palladium, which is used as a catalyzer to cleanse exhaust gas and absorbs large quantities of hydrogen, the researchers said. Rhodium, palladium and silver have 45, 46 and 47 electrons, respectively, numbers that determine their chemical characterizations.
"The orbits of the electrons in the rhodium and silver atoms probably got jumbled up and formed the same orbits as those of palladium," Kitagawa said. The new alloy will be difficult to produce commercially, but Kitagawa intends to use the production method to develop other alloys for use as alternative rare metals.