Scientists in China have published the results of an experiment in which they managed to create a substance “almost identical” to gold out of copper. This could potentially change the landscape of the precious metals market and push investment into other areas, including crypto.
Turning lead into gold has long been posited as the alchemist’s dream – whilst remaining a fantasy. However, the next best thing may have finally happened. Scientists in China have reportedly managed to turn copper into a substance “almost identical” to gold. The findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances on the 22nd of December.
This could have serious consequences for the precious metals market, often posited as being one of the most stable and reliable long-term investment markets there is. Whilst this new material is not identical to gold, it nevertheless holds many of the same attributes meaning it may find use in areas where gold is currently used, for example in electronics.
The Midas Touch
Dr Sun Jian and his colleagues at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Liaoning, explained how they managed to complete the process in the article.
The team shot a copper target with a hot jet of electrically-charged argon gas. Copper atoms were blasted off the target by the jet and settled to form a thin kind of sand. This sand was put under tests which only precious metals can withstand and was found to behave much the same way as gold.
“The copper nano particles achieved catalytic performance extremely similar to that of gold or silver,” Dr Sun said.
Whilst this material will not be able to be used to create gold coins or flood the gold market, it has a great deal of potential utility.
Gold is used heavily in electronics, as is platinum and silver. 40 smartphones can require over one tonne of ore to be created. If this cheap version of copper-gold can be used in the same way as real gold, it may see one of gold’s main use cases completely usurped, which may drive the price down significantly.
What This Means for Crypto
Gold as a store of value has formed one of the most central pillars of economics in the history of human civilisation. It has formed a store of value and unit of exchange in multiple civilisations throughout history and only fairly recently (in the 1970s, with the collapse of the gold standard) stopped being the central measure of value in western economies.
Bitcoin is often dubbed “digital gold” in that it holds many of the same properties – namely a deflationary value equation; it’s scarcity makes it ideal for storing rather than spending. However, it is more practical than gold; it can be sent anywhere in the world in a matter of minutes and divided hundredths or thousandths without a problem. Former Congressman Ron Paul has advocated for both gold and bitcoin’s use in a mixed system to avoid the collapse of the artificially propped-up dollar.
Will it replace gold? Not just yet. Gold’s resilience through history and its utility in electronics show that it is not about to disappear over night. This discovery by Dr Sun and his team however will likely have negative effects long term on the price of the yellow precious metal which may see more money finding its way into crypto as investors diversify. As gold continues to perform badly on the market, this news is unlikely to do it any favours.
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Alex has been putting words on paper since he was old enough to hold a pen; when he bought his first bitcoin in January 2017, those words discovered their place within crypto as well. He holds a master’s degree in international relations from Leiden University in the Netherlands, and his special expertise lies in European cryptocurrency regulation.