• Question: What have you been able to do to the gold that you are working with?i.e rusting or other effects

    Asked by dijon64 to Andrew on 23 Jun 2015. This question was also asked by Manley567.
    • Photo: Andrew Fensham-Smith

      Andrew Fensham-Smith answered on 23 Jun 2015:

      Gold is the only metal found in nature as it’s base metal. You never find sodium, cobalt, nickel, copper – well anything really – as it’s elemental metal. Not even silver! But sometimes if you go to the right places you can find elemental gold as big nuggets. This is because gold is very resistant to oxidation – that is to say, it doesn’t react with oxygen. Metallic iron does, and forms rust like on the side of ships of old cutlery before stainless steel was invented – if you had a golden spoon though, it would be golden forever.

      My university project consists of trying to get gold to oxidise – to react with things which want to pull electrons from the gold – more easily. Gold doesn’t want to do this because it likes electrons more than any other element in the periodic table. To try and make gold do this, I use molecules called ligands to sit around a gold atom and sort of persuade it to give off electrons. Imagine if you had somebody poking you with a stick on your back – you would want to walk away in that direction right? What about if you had a pointy stick at your back and your front? You’d have nowhere to go. Ligands are sort of like pointy sticks on the gold atom. If you can get them to sit and point at the gold in one direction, we might be able to get the gold to want to get rid of electrons in a certain direction. So far, we’ve made gold want to get rid of electrons onto certain compounds, but not actually made it get rid of them completely. Hopefully soon though!

      That’s more or less the gist of it. Hope that helps!