Everyone knows how common gold appears in jewelry. You might also know dental crowns and fillings commonly have gold as well. But did you know the most significant industrial use of gold is in electronics?
About 37% of the gold used in America in 2019 was in electronics, according to the USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries for 2019. Aside from bullion and jewelry (50%), electronics utilize gold more than any other commodity.
There’s gold in your smartphone and most large electronic appliances, such as laptop and desktop computers and your TV.
Why is Gold Used in Electronics?
Gold is a highly efficient conductor of electricity. The precious metal can effectively carry small voltages and remain corrosion-free. As a result, electronic components and devices that use gold are highly reliable.
For these reasons, we use gold in connectors, connecting wires, and connection strips in electronic devices, among other things. All electronic devices have small traces of gold, even microwaves.
Why we use Gold instead of Copper in Electronics
But why use gold when we could use copper in electronics? Copper is a much cheaper option and a better conductor of electricity.
Wiring most commonly uses copper above all other metals. But gold is chosen over copper in electronics because of a few distinct advantages:
- Gold is more ductile and malleable, making it easier to work with.
- Gold has less reactivity with other materials than copper or silver. This is why gold is sometimes known as a “chemically inactive” element.
- Gold doesn’t corrode or tarnish as quickly as copper and silver.
How Much Gold is in an iPhone?
Smartphones like iPhones contain traces of precious metals. According to BBC News and 911 Metallurgist, a typical iPhone has:
- 0.034 grams (g) of gold
- 0.34g of silver, and
- 0.015g of palladium.
The typical iPhone also houses less valuable metals like aluminum (25g) and copper (about 15g). Before you raid your iPhone for precious metals, though, remember it doesn’t amount to much. At today’s prices, the average amount of gold in an iPhone is worth a little less than $2.
The tiny quantities of precious metals used in smartphones actually present a challenge. Why? Because about two billion worldwide smartphone users typically upgrade to a new phone every 11 months, says BBC News.
Old phones then get thrown out and are usually not recycled. Only about 10% of smartphones are recycled annually in the U.S., according to CNet.
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