When you look at your cell phone or smartphone next time, think of this: it has gold in it. Because it is does not corrode or rust, gold is used in those tiny connectors on the integrated circuit (IC) boards that make your cell phone such a marvellous device. True, it’s not much gold – about 50 milligrams worth – thirty or thirty-five rupees worth. But when you think about the millions and millions of mobile phones in use, the numbers add up.
Assume there are more than 800 million cell phones in India – which is a very conservative estimate – and we are talking about Rs 1,000 crore plus! Expand the thought further; estimates by various government agencies suggest that globally, we produce a billion mobile phones a year! That amounts to over Rs 3,500 crore of gold just in mobile phones.
Gold is used in mobile phones because it is a great conductor of electricity. It’s also used in connectors elsewhere; only two metals are considered better conductors of electricity than gold: silver and copper. The Gold connectors are also used for transmitting digital data fast and accurately.
After digging it out of the Earth, we also send it into outer space, on satellites. Gold coated polyester film is used on space craft to reflect infra-red radiation and stabilise temperatures. Geology.com, a leading website for earth science news and information, says that’s because without gold, the darker parts of spacecraft will absorb significantly more heat. The US space shuttle Columbia used 41 kilos of gold for just this purpose (including on its astronauts’ helmets)!
Like in mobile phones, gold is also used in the ICs in computers and laptops. To be more precise, on the circuit boards that make up the central processing unit (CPU) or ‘brain’ of the computer; enabling different parts of the computer to receive power and communicate with each other as a consequence. Like the Willie Nelson song, you might say ‘gold is always on its mind’.