Gold in Electronics - Gold 101
Gold’s combination of high conductivity and resistance to corrosion has made the precious metal popular in electronic applications. The main use of gold in electronics has been with the plating of contacts in switches, relays, and connectors. Another of gold’s uses has been in electrical wiring for high-energy applications. This was done for several of the Manhattan Project’s atomic experiments.
Gold is found in cell phones, calculators, PDAs, and GPS devices today. These gadgets are very common technologies used by people around the world. It is not hard for the contact points of these kinds of devices to get corroded. When tarnish or corrosion occurs, the low voltages and currents used in cell phones and PDAs is broken up. Gold efficiently carries the current to these electronics and isn’t subject to the same corrosive wear other metals are.
About 50 cents of gold is used in each cell phone produced today. More often than not, that gold is not recovered from discarded cell phones. With an estimated one billion cell phones manufactured every year that is a large amount of gold that is being wasted. While we have been able with new technology to make gold thinner than ever, the increased number of new technologies has meant that our consumption of gold in electronics has not decreased.
Still very common, and unlikely to change any time soon, is the use of gold in electronic items like certain computers, jet engines, spacecraft, and communications equipment. Failure for any of these items carries a high cost and gold is felt to be a more dependable material. In addition to gold’s circuitry uses on spacecraft, a gold-coated film wraps the exterior of any space vehicle. The dark parts of any spacecraft would absorb too much heat without this film, which reflects infrared radiation.
Gold is still popular for use in sliding style electrical contacts, especially where corrosion or very high humidity are factors. Another type of contact, a switch contact, also uses gold regularly.
Japan is the highest producer of electronic devices. As a result they use 45 percent of the gold that is used for electronic purposes. The United States follows Japan, consuming 30 percent of the gold the world uses in electronics.
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Gold was first discovered thousands of years ago in its natural state, in streams, which lead to mining all over the world. Its brilliance, natural beauty, great malleability and resistance to tarnish made it enjoyable to work with. Gold gave rise to the concept of money itself. Today gold is used for jewelry fabrication, industrial application, and medical uses, by governments and central banks and by private investors.
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