In the 1990s scientists in Japan developed a
combination of binders and
metal particles to create a material with the working properties of modeling
clay, known as precious metal clay or PMC. This water-soluble product is
available in the form of lump, sheets, slip, and
ready-to-use syringes. An organic binder provides elasticity while holding
very tiny grains of metal in suspension. After the water is driven off, the
object is heated to the fusing temperature of the constituent metal.
During heating, the binding material burns away, which causes the object to
shrink to a degree equal to the volume originally occupied by the binder.
The process is easiest with pure silver and pure gold because these noble metals
resist the formation of oxides and fuse at easily attainable temperatures.
Platinum (the other noble metal) can be made into a clay but requires
temperatures beyond the reach of most kilns.