Chances are you probably have at least one item in your possession made out of gold, most likely a nice piece of jewelry. Although jewelry is the most common use for gold, it is actually used for many different things other than making beautiful jewelry. There is a huge variety of functional uses for gold, but there are three areas where gold is used most often that you probably are not aware.
Gold is used widely in all sorts of electronic devices, like your computer, your TV, your cell phone, and even a simple calculator. Gold is an efficient conductor of electricity that also has the ability to resist long term corrosion that would degrade the electrical contacts. It is often merged into an alloy with other metals, like cobalt or nickel, to increase the durability and life span of the connectors and circuits of the electronics it is used in.
It is used in electronics so much that many people around the world have taken to stripping the gold and other precious metals from circuitry to make a living. They are able to strip gold from a number of old electronics and then sell them at a location that pays cash for gold, such as Rocky Mountain Gold & Silver Exchange. This is often a dangerous process, but given the large amount of electronics thrown away every year, it often has a big potential pay off.
Gold has had some use in medicine in the past, but its most unique and novel use has only recently been discovered through the use of gold nanoparticles in the treatment of cancer. Gold nanoparticles are very small particles of gold that are measured at the nanometer scale. These gold nanoparticles are used to deliver medicine and drugs directly into cells that absorb the nanoparticles naturally. This allows a much more direct applications of drugs for cancer patients, such as chemotherapy drugs.
Gold nanoparticles have a unique reaction when hit with the light of a certain type of laser that causes them to generate a large amount of electrons, and with it, a large amount of heat. Gold nanoparticles collect in many types of cancerous tumors when injected into a cancer patients, and when they are hit with the laser from the outside, the thermal reaction causes the release the heat inside the tumors, effectively cooking them, and destroying them from the inside out.
NASA uses gold in every craft that they send to space. Aside from the use of gold in all of the electrical circuitry, connectors and components, gold is used to reflect infrared radiation and as a non-organic lubricant.
Any part of a spacecraft that is dark in color is likely to absorb quite a bit of infrared radiation once out of Earth’s atmosphere, and thus a lot of heat as well. The gold film that is used to cover many space crafts prevents this effect by reflecting the infrared rays away from the craft.
It is also used as a non-shearing lubricant for any moving parts of the space craft, due to the fact that organic based lubricants would break down very quickly in the radiation of open space. Due to its low shear force, small particles of gold are able to move around without bumping into each other, allowing it to act as solid lubricant, similar to how graphite lubricants are often used in locks here on Earth.
As you can see, there are a variety of practical uses for gold beyond the standard use of jewelry. Gold is used widely, and its value doesn’t deteriorate when used as jewelry or in circuit boards or other electronics.