Gold nanoparticles are currently used in emerging technologies in a range of sectors, notably medical appliances, environmental control and renewable energy.
“A block of gold is solid, stable, inert. Gold nanoparticles have a different colour and react very differently. It’s almost a completely different material,” says Richard Holliday, technology director at the WGC.
Nanoparticles can be made from almost any metal, but gold has unique properties. Unlike other metals, it is both versatile but stable in this state, says Trevor Keel of WGC.
The market for gold in technology applications is thought to be around €8bn, which the WGC hopes to exploit by helping to bring early-stage research programmes to market alongside VCs and private investors.
The organisation intends to focus on pre-institutional funding, but will invest in later-stage projects such as Nanostellar, a developer of a gold-based catalysts to reduce automotive emissions. The Silicon Valley-based company received its first round of funding in 2004.
At an earlier stage, the WGC has invested in the work carried out by Molly Stevens at Imperial College, London, who is exploring the use of gold nanoparticles in medical diagnostics for diseases such as HIV and sepsis.
In the cleantech space, the WGC has backed Michael Wong’s lab at Rice University in Texas, which has developed a gold-alloy nanoparticle catalyst, which breaks down poisonous groundwater pollutants.