With an average price of nearly $1,500 per ounce, as of October 2019, gold ranks as one of the most expensive metals in the world. Even with its high price, though, it’s commonly used in the manufacturing of electronics. From desktop and laptop computers to smartphones, TVs, video game consoles and more, countless electronics contain gold. In fact, most electronics contain at least some amount of this precious metal. So, why do manufacturers prefer gold rather than cheaper, more readily available metals?
The Role of Gold in Electronics
Before we reveal why gold is used in electronics, let’s talk about how it’s used. Electronics aren’t made entirely of gold. Rather, the precious and expensive metal is used for specific components such as connectors, switch contacts, relay contacts and wires.
High Electrical Conductivity
One of the reasons why is used in electronics is because of its electrical conductivity properties. Gold is highly conductive, meaning electricity can easily flow through it with minimal resistance. Copper, silver and aluminum are also conductive, but gold offers a superior level of electrical conductivity. As a result, it’s the perfect material for electrical components like those previously mentioned. When used in electronics, gold allows electricity to flow to and from the respective device with minimal resistance.
Easy to Work
Another reason gold is used in electronics is because it’s easy to work. Some people assume that gold is hard and strong, but this isn’t necessarily true. It’s actually relatively soft and pliable, which makes it easy to work. The soft and pliable characteristics of gold allow manufacturing companies to easy include it in otherwise small electronics. Gold, for example, can be drawn into electrical wires or connectors — something that’s not possible with harder and stronger metals.
Resistant to Tarnishing
The benefits of gold in electronics doesn’t stop there. In addition to high electrical conductivity and being easy to work, this precious metal is resistant to tarnishing. Gold doesn’t mix well with oxygen. Even when left outdoors for long periods of time, it will absorb little or no oxygen. This is important because oxygen is responsible for tarnishing (as well as rusting). When oxygen mixes with a metal, it causes the metal to oxidize, which then leads to tarnishing or other forms of corrosion.
Gold is used in electronics for three primary reasons: It has high electrical conductivity; it’s easy to work; and it’s resistant to tarnishing. While gold is expensive, these characteristics make it an invaluable material for use in the electronics manufacturing.