A research team led by Gadi Rothenberg, professor of heterogeneous catalysis and sustainable chemistry at the University of Amsterdam, has made the first ever chiral palladium metal.
Chirality is a Greek term that means an object, for example, a molecule, has a mirror image. Chiral molecules have asymmetrical centres or right- or left-handed structures.
Metals are not chiral because they have neither. However, Prof Rothenberg and Dr Laura Duran Pachon managed to imprint palladium metal crystals with a chiral organic template. The entire template was then removed, leaving a chiral cavity in the palladium metal.
The metal itself retains all its usual properties, such as malleability, conductivity and catalytic activity. Using a 10-tonne French press, the researchers even pressed a chiral palladium coin, roughly the size of a two-cent piece.
The chirality of the metal was then proven in various experiments carried out in collaboration with the group of Prof Ron Naaman at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.
The research was financed by a Vidi grant, which Rothenberg received from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) in 2003.
This personal research grant is given to post-doctorate researchers for the development of original research projects.