The dawn of the ‘nano-age’ has significantly broadened the potential of gold in biomedical applications
The electronics and semiconductor industries currently dominate industrial demand for gold. This trend is likely to continue in the short-term. Innovative technologies will ensure the optimum use of gold in the electronics sector, including the development of higher strength/lower cost connecting wires and improved plating technology and solder alloys. The demand for high quality components in new products will also help maintain gold’s position as a material of choice for electronics manufacturers.
Over the longer term we expect innovation from new technologies to develop into significant new markets. Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in the use of gold in science and technology, mainly as a result of the emergence of nanotechnology1
The main beneficiaries are the fields of medicine, environment and advanced technologies, with exciting breakthroughs regularly reported from some of the world’s leading academic and industrial institutions.
Medicine and health
Within the biomedical field gold has a long history stretching back almost five thousand years. The dawn of the ‘nano-age’ has significantly broadened the potential of gold in biomedical applications. Today, gold nanoparticles work in entirely novel ways to achieve therapeutic effects. Tumour targeting technologies that exploit gold’s inherent bio-compatibility are being developed to deliver drugs directly into cancerous tumours; in addition innovations in simple, cost effective and sensitive diagnostic tests are likely to lead to early detection of prostate and other cancers.
Environmental concerns have never been more prominent - energy and clean water scarcity, global warming and pollution are all major issues. Gold nano-particle based innovations show great promise in providing solutions to a number of environmentally important concerns, from greener production methods of chemical feedstocks to pollution control and water purification.
Gold-based catalysts are emerging that can effectively prevent the release of highly toxic forms of mercury into the atmosphere, produce chemicals from green feedstocks and be used in water contaminant detection. In addition, gold is being used to meet the challenge of constructing cost effective and efficient fuel cells, a key ‘clean-energy’ technology of the future.
As well as the established uses for gold in electronics, a host of other technology uses are being developed. One example is conductive nanoparticle ink for plastic electronics. Gold is selected because of its material compatibility, inherent durability and proven track record of reliability.
Gold nanotechnologies have been shown to offer functional benefits for visual display technologies, such as touch sensitive screens, and have potential for use in advanced data storage technologies such as advanced flash memory devices.
The World Gold Council and Innovation
By continuously reviewing and monitoring the global research landscape in gold science and technology, we are able to identify promising innovations and accelerate their commercialisation.