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Floating beads of water act as tiny test tubes

Superheated drops used to create nanoparticles

BUBBLE CHEMISTRY  A phenomenon called the Leidenfrost effect helped convert gold salts in a water droplet (left) into gold nanoparticles (right).

Droplets of water dancing over a hot skillet may be the chemical factories of the future.

On a hot surface, water droplets hover on a cushion of their own evaporation. The drops become superheated and negatively charged, which creates ideal conditions for making nanoproducts, researchers report October 29 in Nature Communications. The chemists exploited these drops to make products such as porous metal, heat-resistant foam and metal coatings.

Because the reaction requires only water, instead of hazardous or waste-producing solvents, the study authors say the technique offers a cheap, environmentally friendly way to manufacture nanoscale materials.

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