When the tension rises, unexpected things can happen -- not least when it comes to gold atoms. Researchers from, among others, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have now managed, for the first time, to make the surface of a gold object melt at room temperature.

Ludvig de Knoop, from Chalmers' Department of Physics, placed a small piece of gold in an electron microscope. Observing it at the highest level of magnification and increasing the electric field step-by-step to extremely high levels, he was interested to see how it influenced the gold atoms.

It was when he studied the atoms in the recordings from the microscope, that he saw something exciting. The surface layers of gold had actually melted -- at room temperature.

"I was really stunned by the discovery. This is an extraordinary phenomenon, and it gives us new, foundational knowledge of gold," says Ludvig de Knoop.

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