Gold is traditionally regarded as chemically uninteresting because it doesn't react readily with other substances.
But researchers at Cardiff University's School of Chemistry say when broken down into nanoparticles, containing a few hundred atoms, it becomes incredibly reactive.
That makes it an efficient catalyst to speed up chemical and biological processes.
The scientists say they have discovered gold is the best catalyst for making the main ingredient for PVC and it could replace environmentally harmful mercury.
It's hoped using gold in catalysis could mean the better use of raw materials and the ability to generate fuels, plastics and other chemicals from renewables.
Griff Rhys Jones has withdrawn from becoming Cardiff University's new Chancellor just two weeks after an embarrassing debacle which saw his appointment halted at the last minute.
The comedian's appointment was blocked when it emerged current chancellor Sir Martin Evans was not offered the chance to be reappointed.
In a letter to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan, Jones said: "Following the recent decision of the Court of Cardiff University to refer the appointment of a new Chancellor back to the Council, I can see that it is going to need a period of reconsideration and re-evaluation.
"It may well be that the Council wants to re-offer the post to the incumbent, Sir Martin Evans. Sir Martin may decide to take it or step aside.
"I feel, however, that my presence only makes this a more complicated process for everyone concerned. I believe it better that I should withdraw.
"I can't say that I am offering my resignation. I haven't yet been appointed. But I do not want to be further considered for this post. I was honoured to be chosen."
A spokesperson for Cardiff University said: "Cardiff University is very sorry for creating the circumstances that led Griff Rhys Jones to step aside. These events were based solely on internal rules and procedures: our ongoing friendship with Griff Rhys Jones was never in question.
"We are immensely proud of Griff’s continuing work as an Honorary Fellow and Patron to our Sustainable Places Research Institute, and he remains a trusted supporter of the University.
"Council will meet to consider the nomination of a future Chancellor at a meeting on 19 May. Professor Sir Martin Evans has indicated to the Chair of Council his willingness to be considered for nomination for a further term.”
Scientists from Cardiff University are leading new global research into Alzheimer's disease, in a study involving more than one million people around the world.
The £6m project will look into the relationship between genetics and lifestyle in the development of Alzheimer's, hoping to produce the most comprehensive understanding of the disease's risk to date.
"For too long scientists studying Alzheimer's have been working in silos, engaged in a single-minded 'race' to try and beat the disease. That's simply not going to happen unless we pull together," said Principal Investigator Prof Julie Williams from Cardiff University.
"The insights gleaned will pave the way for a new era of therapies. We predict that in future, based on this unrivalled data, GPs may be able run a simple test to analyse a patient's risk of developing Alzheimer's."
"A combination of gene therapy, drugs and lifestyle changes could then be prescribed to reduce that risk."
The research will look at the genetic data of more than a million people over the age of 65, from Europe, America, Australia and Asia.
The first free online course run by Cardiff University has gone live today. Cardiff is the only Welsh university among more than 20 in the UK to sign up to the idea - which is aimed at widening access to higher education.
The first course is about Muslims here - and also aims to spread understanding of their lives, and place in society.
Changes in the sun's energy may have led to natural climate change, according to researchers at Cardiff University.Read the full story ›
Wales' biggest medical school has launched a new education programme designed to train and retain the best doctors in the country. It comes amid fears that too many medics are being lured to other parts of the UK and even abroad with hospitals and GP surgeries here are struggling.
Cardiff has unveiled a new approach to training and retaining doctors in Wales.
Marking the biggest transformation of Cardiff University's medical education programme since its School of Medicine was founded in 1921 the new curriculum aims to cultivate world-class doctors by introducing more community centred learning.
Studies show that medical students who train in underserved areas are more likely to return there to work after graduation.
Professor John Bligh, Dean of Cardiff University's School of Medicine said:
"Ultimately our goal is to modernise teaching with a view to producing world-class clinicians who want to live and work in Wales for the benefit of Welsh patients, and we hope the community-centred learning experience that this curriculum offers will encourage this."
Under the new curriculum, students will be introduced to community-based learning in their first year to ensure early patient contact. Cardiff University School of Medicine is responsible for the graduation of 300 student doctors annually.
A new education programme launched by Cardiff University's School of Medicine aims to transform the way doctors are trained and produce more doctors 'who want to live and work in Wales'.
The new curriculum is an important milestone for medical education in Wales and will play a critical role in ensuring the future health of Wales.
Not only will it encourage students to be independent, life-long learners with a strong focus on science within clinical practice, but it will also instil at the heart of their learning, a renewed patient consciousness.
Ultimately, our goal is to modernise teaching with a view to producing world-class clinicians who want to live and work in Wales for the benefit of Welsh patients, and we hope the community-centred learning experience that this curriculum offers will encourage this.
Wales' largest medical school has unveiled a new education programme designed to attract, train and retain the best doctors for the country.
Cardiff University's School of Medicine will launch a new undergraduate patient-focused curriculum to transform the way doctors are trained.
Under the new curriculum, aspiring doctors will visit patients at home and learn about clinical consulting from GP tutors in their surgeries.
Scientists at Cardiff University may have found a way to stop breast cancer from spreading around the body.
They're testing a new compound - that if works, could help up to twelve thousand women in Britain every year. Sarah Powell has our top story