Chinese scientists discover way to turn copper into gold

A group of Chinese scientists from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics has published research in the journal Science Advances, which describes how they managed to turn regular copper into a material “almost identical” to gold and silver. The metal, which the scientists obtained as a result of result of their experiment was capable of serving as a catalyst for a reaction producing alcohol from coal — something only precious metals such as gold are capable of doing.
Researchers bombarded a piece of copper with a stream of hot and electrically charged argon gas. The procedure charges its atoms, making their electrons more dense and more stable, making the resultant material closer to gold in terms of resistance to erosion, oxidisation and high temperatures.
The research paper points out that the new material based on cheap copper can replace expensive gold and silver in the production of electronic devices, which require significant amounts of these materials.
At the same time, the material will be of little use for counterfeiters, since its density remains the same as copper, thus making the material lighter than gold and a bad choice to make fake gold bars or coins.
Copper has a similar weight and look to gold. For centuries it has attracted alchemists who saw it as a gateway to instant riches. The new material created by Sun’s lab cannot be used to make fake gold pennies. Its density remains the same as ordinary copper.
But the process could prove lucrative and provide a significant boost for Chinese industries, according to the researchers. Precious metals remain central to modern economies. The components of electronic devices, for instance, contain a large amount of gold, silver and platinum.
About 40 smartphones can contain as much gold as a tonne of ore, it has been estimated.
Copper cannot function as well as gold in industrial applications, mainly because there are fewer electrons — subatomic particles with negative charge — buzzing around its nucleus.
These electrons are also relatively unstable, so copper tends to react more easily when combining with other chemicals.
The method developed by Sun’s team can inject a large amount of energy into copper atoms and make the electrons more dense and stable, they said.
The new material can resist high temperatures, oxidisation and erosion.