Magnetised gold could change computer technology, research reveals

By @vitthernandez on
gold bars
Gold bars are stacked in the safe deposit boxes room of the Pro Aurum gold house in Munich March 3, 2014. Reuters/Michael Dalder

Scottish scientists said that their new research proved that gold can be utilised to create a new breed of electronics that can make computers faster, smaller, and more powerful in the future.

A team of researchers led by scientists at the University of St Andrews conducted an experiment that involved ‘sandwiching’ an ultra-thin superconductor between layers of magnetised gold. The experiment revealed that the layer of gold becomes magnetic as charge carriers flow out of the superconductor into the metal.

This uncanny discovery, which is the capability of conductors to generate and to manipulate magnetic currents under certain undisclosed circumstances, can pave the way for more innovative applications in new types of electronic devices that can change how every gadget, appliance and machinery would be manufactured in the future.

“Superconductors are materials that, if cooled sufficiently, lose their resistance, that is, they carry electricity without dissipating heat. This is possible because the electrons that carry the electrical charge bind together into pairs that are able to move without losing energy. Each electron is itself like a tiny bar magnet, since these charged electrons spin about their own axes,” research head Machiel Flokstra wrote in a white paper first published in .

The study’s main goal, according to Professor Simon Bending, head of the Department of Physics at the University of Bath, is to marry the two fields of spintronics and superconductivity.

“This is the first step to realizing superconducting spintronic devices that operate without generating heat and could be the basis for entirely new types of computers that are faster, smaller and more powerful than before,” he said.

The discovery goes beyond existing theories on conventional electronics where only electrical charges can be manipulated.

Metals on industrial and electrical sector

The commercialisation of the Scottish research team’s discovery could soon lead to a massive demand for gold, which is good for the segment since it is currently suffering from weak demand on the global market.

"That's clearly better for the gold market, with the specter of lower yields benefiting the precious metal,” Daniel Hynes, senior commodity strategist at ANZ Banking Group, told Bloomberg .

Nickel, tin, aluminum and zinc, which are also used in making computer parts, badly need a demand recovery as these commodity items have been suffering from low demand and supply ever since Indonesia upheld an ore ban. However, this scenario has encouraged ore producers such as Amur Minerals Corporation ( London AIM: AMC ) to focus on infrastructure improvement and plans to build smelting facilities instead of immediately selling its ore on the global market. 

However, helping the metals segment is the green energy being promoted in China, as it has not only become a new source of demand but also a powerful scenario that offsets the decreasing purchase from steel producers due to the Chinese market rout that happened in July.

“ Green energy has become a new source of demand for metals, notably zinc and aluminium, but also cobalt, tin, silver and the platinum group metals. Oh, and one other beneficiary: gold,” Caroline Bain of London’s Capital Economics told The Australian.

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