The periodic table of elements turns 150 years this year. This is a great chance to shine a light on some of the remarkable elements on the table like gold. On the periodic table gold is marked with the symbol Au. It is the 79th element on the table and is placed in period 6 and group 11. It is a distinctive yellow metal with some exceptional properties. Gold is ductile which means it can be drawn easily into a wire. Gold is malleable which means it is soft enough to be formed into intricate shapes and products. Gold is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. Gold is the stuff of legend. It is part of people’s cultures and mythology. It also has been a store of wealth for centuries. Throughout history there has and will be a gold bullion dealer as long as there was gold to be discovered or to be sold in exchange for goods or services.
There is so much more that makes gold important other than jewellery making. Chemically, gold is classified as an inert metal which means it is not volatile and reactive as other metals. However, gold has shown its usefulness in more practical applications. Like copper or Silver, mercury and 9 others elements, there is no record of who discovered gold. Historical lore suggests its use dates back to the ancient Egyptians back in 3000BC. In those ancient times gold was primarily used for jewellery, however its chemical properties extend to other areas like technology, pharmaceuticals and nanotechnology. It looks poised to be the element that will take us into the future.
But why and how is gold useful? There are nine elements on the periodic table that occur in nature. These have radioactive elements that make them useful in ground-breaking nuclear medicine. Gold is not one of them, but it is very useful in medicine and nanotechnology. Gold is used in drugs to deliver certain important compounds. It is now commonly used in drugs for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
An important discovery regarding nanotechnology and gold was made in 1983. It was discovered that a gold surface dipped in a thiolate solution can form self-assembling monolayers. This was significant because surface modification can help identify properties that lie deep within the bulk of the material without having to cut into it.
Gold nanoparticles also make great catalysts. A catalyst is something that helps a chemical reaction to take place faster, reducing the amount of energy required without affecting the chemical composition itself. Catalysts are important in many industrial situations. For instance, gold catalysts can be used in acetylene hydrochlorination. This is an important process in the making of PVC plastic used in plumbing. Before gold catalysts were discovered, a toxic mercuric chloride was used in the process of making PVC. Gold catalysts are also used in the process of turning propylene to propylene oxide, which is the key ingredient in the making of antifreeze. Gold is also used in photo physics, specifically the making of photovoltaic cells in solar panels that turn energy from the sun into electricity.
There are new developments being made every day. The demand for gold is growing, but we may be facing a shrinkage in supply. This is why gold recycling is so important to ensure that we keep making new developments in the future. This is why the number of gold dealers is growing. A gold bullion dealer buys old or damaged jewellery and sells it to a refinery. The gold is melted and refined and then returned into the market for new products to be made.