Uses of Precious Metals Series
118 elements make up the periodic table of all known elements. These range from Hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe to short lived elements created using particle accelerators and lasting only fractions of a second before decaying into other elements. The periodic table is further split into groups such as the noble gasses and noble metals which are both known for their stability and low chemical reactivity.
The noble metals group gives us the precious metals that we deal with. These metals are often quite rare and found only in limited quantities in the Earth’s crust. Very few sites around the world have sufficient quantities to allow commercial extraction of these metals which contributes to their value. The precious metals as they are more commonly known are useful for a wide range of applications some of which are not that well known. This series will shed some light on the versatility of precious metals which makes them so useful to modern industry.
Gold is probably the most well known and desirable precious metal. Its chemical symbol is Au and it has an atomic number of 79 on the periodic table. It typically has a metallic yellow, or golden colour. Gold has been used and sought after throughout history as a symbol of power and wealth. It has driven conquest most notably with the Spanish conquest of South and Central America beginning in the 15th century. The enduring myth of El Dorado, the city of gold still entices people to this day with expeditions setting off in search of mythical golden city and the wealth its discovery could bring.
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Most people will of course be familiar with the main use of gold in jewellery and this still serves as the main global demand for gold.
Due to the intrinsic value people attribute to gold it has also found a place as a currency guarantor. Until the mid 20th century many countries around the world used the gold standard to underwrite their national currency however this has fallen out of favour in the more financially driven economies of the modern world.
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Beyond the obvious demand for gold in jewellery and gold bullion here is another growing sector that makes use of gold, the industrial sector. Almost ten percent of the world demand for gold goes into industrial processes with electronics accounting for the vast majority of that ten percent.
Gold in Electronics
Gold’s status as a noble metal means that along with other noble metals and the other precious metals we sell it has a number of properties that make it useful in industrial applications. For consumer electronics such as smart phones and tablet computers the most useful property of gold is its high conductivity and its resistance to corrosion.
These two properties make it ideal for use in electronics and other high end electrical products. The boom in demand for smart phones, smart watches and the plethora of other consumer electronics on the market drive a similar increase in demand for gold in order to satisfy the requirements of ever more sophisticated electronics.
Gold In Space
Gold also has excellent heat resistant and insulating capacities and many space probes make use of gold foil as a thermal insulator for prolonged operation in the cold vacuum of space where temperatures can vary massively from the sunlit side of a space craft to the shadowed side.
The James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the famous Hubble Space Telescope is scheduled to be launched in 2018 and features a 25m2 primary mirror coated in Gold due to its reflectivity across the range of the electromagnetic spectrum.
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Photo Attribution to Lawrence OP