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Gold in Tech: I Can See Clearly Now!

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Thanks to gold, you may see even sharper images on your smartphone, computer and television screens the future.

We’ve seen tremendous advances in high-resolution technology over the last decade or so. Modern smartphone displays pack millions of pixels in a few inches of space giving us crystal clear images. But researchers at Cambridge University have created even smaller pixels using gold nanoparticles.

This is another in a long list of technological innovations using gold that researchers have developed over the last several years.

The pixels created by Cambridge researchers are about 1 million times smaller than those in your phone. New Atlas reported that this development could soon make your modern hi-res display “look decidedly retro.”

These new pixels could be used in huge, flexible displays that are relatively easy to manufacture and cheaper to run.”

The pixels start with a tiny grain of gold. The gold particle is then coated with a polymer. Once that process is complete, the particle is placed onto a reflective surface that traps light under each pixel. Electrical pulses create a chemical change that alters the color of the pixel.

Once a pixel is switched to a certain color, it holds that color until it’s instructed to switch again. That makes them potentially very energy efficient – if a still image is frozen on the screen, for example, it’s not using any energy.”

Researchers say the system can be scaled much larger than conventional displays. It could even be used on a surface the size of a building.

In another development using gold, Scientists at the Universities of Cologne and Bonn and the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig — Leibniz Institute for Animal Biodiversity in Bonn have developed a process that makes invisible surfaces visible using computer tomography (CT).

According to Science News, the can digitally capture and display fine surface structures that were previously invisible.

In order to digitally capture structures such as bristles or scales on the body surface of an organism, the X-ray contrast had to be selectively increased. The scientists found a solution rather quickly: gold. This method is already well established in the preparation of samples for scanning electron microscopy, where samples are usually coated with an extremely thin layer of gold. However, until now nobody has tried to transfer this method to computer tomography.”

Researchers said that in addition to its implementation in biological sciences, the new method also holds promise in other fields such as material sciences or quality control in manufacturing.

And to think, some people claim gold has “no utility.”

In fact, CNBC commentator Jim Leventhal recently said he had no interest in gold because it has “no uses as a metal.” Leventhal may be a smart man, but this is an utterly absurd comment.

These new innovations are just two of the many recent technological breakthroughs using the yellow metal. There have been a number of innovations in the healthcare field, including the development of diagnostic tests and a promising anti-malaria drug. And just last year, a team of Chinese researchers announced they were able to partially restored the sight of blind mice by replacing their deteriorated photoreceptors – sensory structures inside the eye that respond to light – with nano-wires made of gold and titanium. Scientists have also developed a process using a gold coating that helps keep glass from fogging up.

Over the past decade, the tech sector accounted for more than 380 tons of gold demand annually. That’s 13% ahead of central bank purchases during the same time period.

So, to say gold “has no uses as a metal” is simply absurd.

We generally think of gold as an investment as well as money, but its increasing use in technology and industry will likely impact demand. The amount of gold used in technology was roughly equal to the amount purchased by central banks between 2010 and 2016. This fundamental driver of demand will only increase the overall value of the yellow metal.

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Photo: NanoPhotonics Cambridge/Hyeon-Ho Jeong, Jialong Peng)


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