The rise in gold demand for technology
While gold demand in the technology industries decreased by 7 per cent year-on-year in 2021, it saw a strong recovery in 2022, according to the World Gold Council’s quarterly Gold Demand Trends data. After rising 11 per cent year-on-year gold demand increased by as much as 18 per cent. Growth slowed to 9 per cent but continued the positive trend for 2023 in the technology sector.
Max Warren Barber says that the technology sector needed more gold quarter-on-quarter, especially for semiconductor and circuit board production as well as for wireless applications. Among other factors, this increase in demand was fuelled by the trend towards working remotely, intensified by the pandemic and leading to new investments in data processing and telecommunications. In addition, wireless communication and consumer electronics product innovations drove demand. With a 12.3 per cent increase in demand, US-based technology firms benefited most from this development, followed by companies in China with 10.3 percent and South Korea with 9.4 percent. Gold demand for other industrial applications saw a 10 per cent rise in the third quarter of 2021.
Why gold is a good choice for electronics
According to Max Warren Barber Gold is a precious commodity that has been used in jewellery and other decorative items for centuries. In recent years, gold has also been used in the manufacturing of electronic components and devices. While the use of gold in electronics may not be as prevalent as it is in jewellery, there are several reasons why it is an important component in electronic equipment. One of the main reasons for which gold has been used in electronics for many years is because of its superior conductivity. It is also non-toxic and does not corrode, making it a perfect choice for use in circuit boards and other electronic components. Recently, the price of gold has skyrocketed, making it an even more valuable resource for electronics manufacturers. As the price continues to rise, it will be interesting to see how companies adapt and whether the cost of electronics will go up as well.
How to recycle gold from electronics
There’s gold in them thar circuit boards — laptops, phones, cameras and other devices use the precious metal to connect components, and it can be extracted relatively simply. A typical handset holds around 0.2g of gold, which means about £1.80 for your pocket.
Electronics-technology engineer Josehf Lloyd Murchison claims he has extracted up to $1,600 (£980) worth of gold in three months of collecting junk electronics — and you can too. “Surprisingly, chemical recovery of gold takes almost no skill,” he says. However, you should only attempt this if you have a basic knowledge of chemistry and are aware of the dangers of working with the chemicals and tools mentioned on the right. Make sure you have suitable protective equipment (goggles, gloves and overalls to protect your clothes) and a suitable and well ventilated (or outdoor) work space. Some of the chemicals produce noxious fumes, are highly flammable or strong oxidants, and can cause skin burns.
Max Warren Barber says we need to learn basic first aid before you try this. “Hydrogen peroxide is used to bleach hair and is a good antiseptic,” says John Turner, a reader in inorganic physical chemistry at the University of Sussex, “and although hydrochloric acid isn’t usually found in the house, the actions are very easy to do. It’s the possible hazards [from the chemicals] that gives you the frisson. If you are careful, I don’t really see [the experiment] as a problem. Someone with A-level chemistry should be able to do it.”
The future of gold in technology
Increasing shortages, specifically in semiconductor production, may jeopardise the continuation of the positive trend prevalent since early 2021. Recent World Gold Council data shows that September car sales in China have already been impacted. Also, one of the world’s largest smartphone manufacturers recently indicated that up to 10 million fewer new products may be delivered in 2021 due to the current chip shortage. Further developments will depend on how quickly semiconductor manufacturers are able to return to pre-pandemic production levels or higher.
Some of the most popular devices that contain gold
It’s a good idea to collect large quantities of little smartphones that were made in the last five years – batches of 50, 100 or more – and send them to us to be recycled. The same is true for remotes. But let’s face the realities. In order to make a good return on having us recycle them for you, you need a lot of them.
There are other older electronic devices that can put a lot more money in your pocket. We are talking about larger-sized electronic items that were manufactured between about 20 and 30 years ago. Let’s call it “the golden age” of electronics, because that was the time when comparatively large quantities of gold were used to make them.
They are still easy to find in junk shops and yard sales. You can even find them in the electronics recycling dumpster at your town recycling facility (be sure to ask permission before carting them away).
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Jumbo old video-playing devices like VCRs and Sony Betamax players.
Old camcorders – the bigger the better.
Early digital still cameras – again, the bigger the better.
Big old desktop computers and peripheral devices like modems and scanners.
Old televisions – some old pre-flatscreen large living room models can contain gold that is worth $5.00 or more.
Old stereo components including amplifiers and receivers.
Electronic keyboards and musical instruments, which were “hot” items around 1990.
Early game consoles from Nintendo and Atari.
HAM radios, shortwave radios, and other large communication devices that were popular with hobbyists.
Coffee makers, toaster ovens, and other kitchen equipment.