Computer analysis of journal articles yields recipe for nanoporous gold

A microscopic image from the surface of a gold ring

Image: Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station

Engineers from Texas A&M University and Virginia Tech report important new insights into nanoporous gold—a material with growing applications in several areas, including energy storage and biomedical devices—all without stepping into a lab.

Instead of conducting any additional experiments, the team used image-analysis software developed in-house to “mine” the existing literature on nanoporous gold, also known as NPG. Specifically, the software analyzed photographs of NPG from some 150 peer-reviewed papers, quickly measuring key features of the material that the researchers then correlated with written descriptions of how the samples were prepared.

One of the results?

A recipe, of sorts, for how to make NPG with specific characteristics.

“We were able to back out a quantitative law that explains how you can change NPG features by changing the processing times and temperatures,” said Ian McCue, a postdoctoral researcher in the Texas A&M Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the Texas A&M College of Engineering.

McCue is lead author of a paper on the work published online in the April 30 issue of Scientific Reports. Michael J. Demkowicz, associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Texas A&M, is among the co-authors.

Earlier attempts to measure NPG features led to very small data sets of five or six data points. The Texas A&M/Virginia Tech team has looked at around 80 data points. That, in turn, allowed the team to create the new quantitative description of NPG features associated with different processing techniques. All that without doing any actual experiments, just clever data-mining and analysis, said McCue.

The work has also led to new publication guidelines for future researchers. Of the 2,000 papers the team originally analyzed, only 150 had useful information.

The National Science Foundation supported the project.

More at the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station