Editor's Note: Enough about mining, you say? We had a different take on mining seven years ago today--that is, not the crypto-currency version, but the real deal gold kind! Here's a little gem from our archives, whereby one of our French editors did a little chemistry experiment. I'll bet some of you remember this; but for those who don't, we decided to dust it off in the name of good ol' nostalgia.
Principally used in jewelry, gold (chemical symbol Au) is also used generally in manufacturing (and by the electronics and computer industries in particular) due to its excellent thermal and electrical conductivity, resistance to oxidation, and inalterability. The computer industry uses several hundred tons (318 tons in 2003, for example) of the element every year.
The precious metal is found in almost all computer components--processors, motherboards, extension cards, memory DIMMs, and so on. Of course, the amounts used in each part are infinitesimal. But with the price of gold skyrocketing in recent years, it’s becoming more and more economically-viable to recover gold from old electronic and computer components than to mine it. That’s why specialized companies have sprung up to do just that.
Today, we're going to show you how we recovered the gold from old motherboards using do-it-yourself methods. Please note: The chemicals used in this demonstration are extremely dangerous, especially in the concentrations used. Therefore, we strongly discourage you from attempting to reproduce this experiment at home.