For hundreds of years, people from all walks of life have been thinking about creating gold from other elements and materials. Gold has been an invaluable commodity ever since it was first discovered by humans. Some of the golden artifacts found by archeologists have been dated back to fifth millennium BC. In nature, gold is usually present in the form of grains and nuggets. It can be found in crystallized mineral deposits, rocks and alluvium.
As science is now capable of making diamonds artificially, many people are asking why we cannot do the same with gold and other precious metals. Well, there are several reasons for this, as explained below.
Origin of gold – As per prevailing scientific theories, gold was created during supernova nucleosynthesis. It was also formed when neutron stars collided with each other. As per estimates, a single neutron star collision created around 3-13 Earth masses of gold. As such events have been quite frequent, gold is said to be widely present in the universe. The only thing is that it is dispersed across the universe and not available at a single place. This gold was mostly in the form of dust when our Solar System was formed.
A difficult process – Now, it is obvious that we cannot create universal events like supernova nucleosynthesis and neutron stars collision in a lab. To make gold from other elements, we need to change its atomic structure. This is not easy as protons, electrons and neutrons of an atom are bound together very strongly.
In comparison, we can now make diamonds fairly easily in a lab and factory. That’s because diamond is a crystallized form of carbon and not an element. Molecules are relatively easier to tweak in comparison to atoms. To make diamonds in a lab or factory, one will need extremely high temperature and pressure. This mimics the natural processes on earth that led to the formation of diamonds millions of years ago.
A costly process – With particle accelerators, it is possible to create gold in a lab environment. However, the output quantity is very little. Moreover, it’s a very costly process to make gold. It’s like investing billions of dollars to get hundred dollars’ worth of gold. This is why gold is not yet produced on a mass scale in labs or factories.
If you believe that Star Trek will become a reality one day, then we may possibly have the technology to create gold in a lab. We may even send spaceships to colliding neutron stars to gather the resulting gold. However, there are no such possibilities at present.