When thinking about gold, most people only consider its investment value and usage in jeweler manufacturing. Still, one must keep in mind that nowadays, almost 11% of gold demand is industrial, which means that over 400 tons are used in a diverse range of industrial applications every year. The reason for this is that it has a unique combination of properties that make it practically irreplaceable.
Gold has an extraordinary thermal and electrical conductivity, which makes it appropriate for electronic use, like for wires and contacts. It is very ductile, extremely malleable and wear resistant, so a small quantity of gold goes a very long way; this is what makes its usage very profitable. Having a good corrosion resistance, it remains free of tarnish and is safe against all oxidative processes. The only drawback is that it’s a relatively soft metal, so it must be alloyed with stronger metals, like silver, copper or nickel.
The most important area in which it is used is electronics. Being such an efficient conductor, it’s highly reliable for switch and relay contacts, wire and strip connectors. Almost every sophisticate electronic device contains a small amount of gold, including cellular phones, GPS units and even TVs. It is also used for desktop and laptop computers, in the connectors used to mount microprocessors and memory chips on the motherboard; in this case it is most often electroplated onto other metals so as to increase durability. It can even be found in military electronics and other types of secure communication systems.
Another industrial branch that utilizes gold is aeronautics. Many pieces of space vehicles are coated in gold, in order to reflect radiation and stabilize the temperature inside the spacecraft. The visors on astronauts’ helmets are covered in a thin layer of gold, so as to protect their skin and eyes from the very powerful solar rays from space. It is also used as a lubricant between mechanical parts, because it is friction-resistant and is not affected by cosmic radiation as other lubricants would be.
Glassmaking is also an industrial department that often uses gold, primarily as a pigment. A small amount of gold gives the glass a beautiful red color. When utilized as a coating on glass surfaces for climate controlled buildings, it reflects solar radiation outward and internal heat inward, thus maintaining a steady temperature throughout the year.
Since gold is so heavily used for industrial purposes, one might wonder if our precious metal reserves are not in danger of running low. Well, the good news is that specialists say gold can be recycled and reused without losing any of its characteristics. Recycled electronic parts are collected and valuable metals like this one are extracted from them. This way, our planet’s resources are conserved and we don’t have to settle for less in what concerns industry, either.