The primary application of gold is in the jewellery industry, where it is often alloyed with other base metals in order to increase its hardness. Gold is the chemical element corresponding to atomic number 79. It is denoted by the symbol Au (derived from its Latin name ‘aurum’). Some important applications of gold are listed in this article.
Uses of Gold in Jewellery
Since gold is considered by many to be a “precious metal”, it is widely used in jewellery and ornaments. However, it is interesting to note that pure gold is a relatively soft metal. In order to make it hard, gold is often alloyed with other base metals such as copper. This increases the hardness of the gold and also alters certain other properties such as its melting point and its colour. It can also be noted that it is not uncommon for gold to be woven into threads and used in embroidery. Jewellery and articles of clothing that are made of gold are considered to be precious because of the valuable nature of gold.
Applications of Gold in the Electronics Industry
Gold is widely used in the electronics industry for the fabrication of electrical connectors that are resistant to corrosion. These electrical connectors are known to be employed in many electrical devices such as computers. It is interesting to note that an average smartphone is known to contain approximately 50 milligrams of gold. It can also be noted that gold is often employed as a coating in the connectors that are used in many important forms of wiring, such as USB cords, video cables, and audio cables.
Owing to its resistance to corrosion, gold is also ideal for use in electrical contacts. Gold is a good conductor of heat, non-toxic in nature, and one of the most ductile metals known to man. Therefore, switch contacts (which are often highly susceptible to corrosion) are usually made up of gold. Furthermore, semiconductor devices are often connected to their packages via extremely fine gold wires. The process of employing fine wires of gold to connect devices is commonly known as wire bonding.
Applications of Gold in Medicine
- Alloys of gold are known to have applications in restorative dentistry. For example, tooth restorations procedures are known to often employ gold as one of the components of the crown or the dental bridge.
- Suspensions of gold nanoparticles, which are often referred to as colloidal gold, are widely used in medical research and also research in the fields of materials science and biology.
- Gold is also integral to the process of immunogold labelling (also known as immunogold staining, abbreviated to IGS).
- The gold-198 isotope is known to be used in the field of nuclear medicine for the treatment of some forms of cancer. However, it can be noted that this isotope of gold has a half-life of only 2.7 days.
Other Niche Uses of Gold
- Gold is often used as a colouring agent in cranberry glass, where it is known to produce a very deep and intense red colour.
- Gold is also of vital importance in the field of photography. In this application, gold is known to be employed in order to shift the colour of the silver bromide prints in the direction of blue or brown tones.
- This element is also employed in the manufacture of several artificial satellites. Here, it is applied on the surfaces of the artificial satellites since it is known to be a reflector of electromagnetic radiation (including infrared radiation and the radiation that falls under the visible spectrum).
- Gold is also employed as a heterogeneous catalyst in some chemical reactions. In such applications, gold is often dispersed into nanoparticles in order to increase the effective surface area.
- Gold is also used in gold compact disks, a type of high-end CD in which the element serves as a reflective layer.
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