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Gold in Tech: Sensors Using Gold Wire Could Open the Door to Real-Time Health Diagnosis

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A new tech development using gold could help doctors diagnose and manage health issues in real-time.

Scientists at Australian National University developed the tiny, wearable optical sensors. The device is 50 times thinner than a human hair. Researchers told Printed Electronics World that the sensors combine very small gold nanostructures with semiconductors.  Scientists say the sensors’ unique properties enable it to detect gas molecules at very low concentrations.

Associate Professor Antonio Tricoli said the device could one day eliminate the need for blood tests and other invasive procedures.

These ultra-small sensors could be integrated into a watch to literally provide a window on our health. This exciting invention shows that we are on the cusp of designing the next generation of wearable devices that will help people to stay well for longer and lead better lives.”

The device can detect and analyze small levels of gas known as metabolites that seep through your skin and breath. This means doctors can potentially track subtle changes in your body, and diagnose and manage a range of chronic diseases in real time.

One huge advantage of the new design is that it’s self-powered, meaning it doesn’t require batteries or any kind of external power source. It can also operate at room temperature.

“You could simply use a pulse of light to track these biomarkers of disease – there’d be no need for batteries, wires or large and expensive lab equipment,” Tricoli said.

Researchers say the sensors could be used for applications outside the medical field, including farming and space exploration. For instance, the sensors could be set up to detect whether a plant has a particular disease or when a fruit is ripe. The devices could also be deployed on a satellite or spacecraft to detect life on distant planets.

This is just one of many recent tech developments utilizing the gold in the field of medicine. Gold nanoparticles are being used to treat cancer and to help diagnose other diseases. Gold may even help restore eyesight. Earlier this month, we told you about tiny robots made from the yellow metal that can clean pathogens out of blood.

More broadly speaking, the technology sector has an increasing appetite for gold. The demand for the yellow metal for tech applications logged its sixth consecutive quarter of gains in Q1 2018. Overall, demand for gold in technology and industry increased 4% to 82 tons year-on-year. The amount of gold used in the tech sector 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.

The use of gold in medical devices makes up just a small part of that demand. Gold needed for the production of computers and electronics generates the most industrial demand. It grew 5% year-on-year to 65.3 tons in Q1 2018Sustained demand for gold bonding wire, as well as for gold used in wireless and Printed Circuit Board (PCB) served as a primary driver.

We generally think of gold as an investment as well as money, but it is increasingly being used in technology and industry. Demand for gold in the tech sector has been growing since 2016. That growth will likely continue to accelerate due to new innovations like these sensors. Increased demand in tech and industrial sectors will likely put upward pressure on overall demand for gold in the future.

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