The Lifespan of Gold: From Formation in the Earth to Processing and Use
From the time that it is first carried throughout the rocks and soil until the time at which it appears in a circuit board or as a ring on a finger, gold is formed, processed, and used—gold is in a constant state of repurposing.
Gold is moved from deep underground and then mined after it is deposited nearer to the earth’s surface. Gold is then processed and formed into a great many things in today’s world. It is used by technology, science, and the fashion industry in many ways. A single atomic substance naturally found in the earth, humans have built empires from its brilliance and made lasting commitments by its glow.
The Formation of Gold
There are many theories surrounding how gold is redistributed within the earth. Some believe that gold was once in a molten state, and solidified to create deposits. But it is understood that gold is actually re-deposited by circulating hot water that cools as it reaches the earth’s outer surface, and ends up in specific areas that exhibit the correct conditions.
Intensely hot water deep within the earth brings elements such as gold into a solution form, which is then moved from one place to another by convection. As gold is moved and the water cools, gold nuggets and veins form as this metal solidifies.
Often veins form through natural fissures in the rock, or between two different substances where liquid is better circulated. Creating gold crystals requires a very specific set of circumstances, and therefore gold is most often found in oddly shaped lumps and mounds, instead of in crystalline shapes.
Mining and Processing Gold
Mining begins with ore samples that are taken from the area to help the miners determine the correct extraction process. The gold found in nuggets is easier to detect when mining for gold, and it offers more bang for one’s mining buck as well. But more often than not, gold is spread out throughout an area, making it more difficult to collect. Low-grade gold can be dissolved out using cyanide, whereas high grade gold is often first extracted from the ground, and then dissolved and separated.
Once gold and other rocks are removed from the ground, they are crushed into powder and mixed into a mud. This mud is then filtered to separate the gold from the other elements and liquid. Other methods include leaching the gold by roasting it and then extracting the gold by dissolving it in a liquid and then allowing it to deposit onto activated carbon.
After being mined, gold is then refined by stripping out its impurities. These impurities are eliminated by melting down the gold and then treating it with chloride. This chloride treatment causes any excess metals to drift off so that a purer gold remains. To complete the refining process, an electrical current is passed through the gold to strip out any remaining impurities.
Gold’s Uses in Modern Life
Although most popularly recognized in the form of jewelry and coins, gold is also used throughout everyday lifein a great many ways, such as:
- Aerospace – Gold’s reflective properties help protect astronauts and spacecraft from the sun’s heat and radiation. Rocket engines have gold tubing to safely carry liquid hydrogen, and weather satellites deflect heat.
- Medicine – In medicine, gold is used to focus lasers, create more accurate thermometers, develop life-saving drugs, and study DNA.
- Transportation – In cars, gold is used to create reliable contacts and sensors for airbags. Commercial airplanes use gold-bonded compressor vanes to cool down turbines, and infrared equipment is used to monitor air-pollutants to ensure safe working environments. Miners themselves benefit from gold by relying on gold-activated monitors that help warn them of low oxygen levels.
- Technology – Gold is used throughout technology in circuitry, telecommunications, and many sophisticated electronics.
Gold is found across the globe in some form or another, from its original location deep within the earth, to its use in modern-day living and currency.