New uses for gold could raise industrial demand by 50% in a decade
February 9, 2005
By Eric Onstad
Cape Town - Gold producers aim to boost industrial demand for the precious metal by more than 50 percent within a decade by developing new uses in gas masks, air-cleaning devices and as a superconductor in electrical gadgets.
"New markets based on new technologies for gold will lead to significant new demand," David Thompson of the World Gold Council said at the Indaba mining conference in Cape Town.
Currently the bulk of gold is used for jewellery, accounting for 80 percent of the 4 142 tons consumed in 2003, with industrial applications such as electronics and dental fillings taking up only 12 percent, or 500 tons.
New uses for gold discovered by South African research group Autek are expected to lead to an extra demand of 280 tons in 10 years, Thompson said.
The first new commercial product developed by Autek, formed by South Africa's AngloGold Ashanti in 2000, is a catalyst to be used in gas masks.
Gold can be used as a catalyst at room temperatures, unlike other substances such as platinum, widely used in auto catalysts to clean pollution in exhaust fumes.
"Gold catalysts can work at ambient temperatures as well as under humid conditions. This is quite unique because most catalysts fail under these conditions," said Autek's Elma van der Lingen.
Currently gas masks use carbon, but a canister with a gold catalyst to filter out carbon monoxide would be lighter and smaller.
Autek, which has 52 researchers and collaborates with 19 universities, started discussions with catalyst manufacturers about the gas mask product late last year. "We expect commercialisation in the first quarter of 2007," Van der Lingen said.
The new product was expected initially to need around 10 tons of gold a year, but there was good potential to develop other catalytic devices using gold for cleaning air in homes and public areas such as restaurants, Thompson said.
Total use of gold in catalysts was expected to boost gold consumption by 200 tons within 10 years, he added.
The other main new industrial use for gold would be as a layer in high-temperature superconductors for use in electricity transmission and electrical devices, Thompson said.
Autek is also busy working on a host of other applications for gold, including biomedical uses as an anti-cancer treatment.
One research project in co-operation with the universities of Liverpool in the UK and Parma in Italy is developing medical uses based on nanotechnology.
Autek also gets funding from South Africa's two other main gold producers, Gold Fields and Harmony Gold.
article courtesy of http://www.busrep.co.za/
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