Despite being the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust, aluminum is not a very well understood metal, at least when it is dissolved into other materials, such as water. Researchers at Oregon State University though, have finally crafted a toolset to enable researchers to analyze aqueous aluminum.
Aluminum has an interesting history to it, in part because of how it dissolves in water. This makes it very uncommon to appear in its natural state, but instead locked inside of ores. It was not until the late nineteenth century that an electrolytic process was discovered to cheaply produce the now ubiquitous metal. With the new tools though, researchers will be able to create clusters of aluminum atoms to then study with new laser techniques. Potentially the tools may be applied to other metals as well.
While developing the tools, the researchers also discovered a behavior of aqueous aluminum called a 'flat cluster.' This discovery could have implications for large scale production of thin films and nanoparticles, which in turn may influence transistors, solar cells, and more.
Source: Oregon State University