Because gold and electronics go together like peanut butter and jelly, it’s no surprise when some technological advancements are made thanks to gold’s physical and chemical properties.
Scientists have been taking the idea of traditional, fragile circuit boards and finding ways to make them stretch and bend. This kind of technology would be useful for so many applications. But, the one that first jumps into everyone’s mind is one-size-fits-all “wearable electronics.”
There’s just one roadblock with this idea. Flexible substances like rubber, latex, and plastic, are notoriously non-conductive. While you may be able to integrate circuit board components with a flexible substance, it’s not going to conduct electricity. Without gold, the stretchable circuit board is functionally useless.
Gold has three unique characteristics that solve this problem. First, it is highly conductive. That’s why you’ll see gold components in high-quality electronics. Second, gold is very malleable – meaning it has some capability for bending and stretching without breaking. Third, gold never corrodes. Even if it is applied in extremely thin layers, it will not corrode away and disrupt an electrical connection.
It’s thanks to gold that researchers at the University of Cambridge have created stretchable, bendable circuits. It’s done by taking a rubber circuit like the one mentioned above and coating it with a very thin layer of gold foil. Micro-tears in the gold open up when the circuit board is stretched. Because the gold is so conductive, the electrical charge can cross the micro tears without a problem. Thanks to gold’s malleability and the micro tears, the circuit board can be stretched up to twice its normal length and still work.
Once again, gold has proved itself to be a critical component for emerging technologies.