Sept. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Gold, prized for jewelry and stowed in bank vaults, will increasingly be used to boost energy output and clean up water for drinking, the World Gold Council said.
The metal’s properties have the potential to improve solar- cell efficiency, enhance the performance of fuel cells and remove impurities from water, Trevor Keel, head of technology at the WGC, said in an interview. Gold is already used in some catalytic converters to curb pollution from cars, he said.
As increased demand for energy and water saps global resources, utilities and manufacturers are seeking ways to save both by introducing new technologies. Gold, which is corrosion- resistant and highly conductive, can be used as a catalyst to improve the efficiency of processes such as water purification.
“People automatically say gold’s too expensive to use in these technologies, but that’s not actually true,” Keel said in London. “If you use it in a small enough quantity and it brings you a big enough benefit, it’s always going to be worth using.”
Gold is currently cheaper than platinum, which is used in similar applications. The price of gold, considered a haven in times of economic upheaval, has dropped more than 20 percent this year after global growth began to strengthen.
Nanoparticles in the metal can detect and remove pesticides and heavy metals from drinking water, according to Keel.
“We’re now at a point where we’re going to see more and more commercialized processes in this sector,” he said. “It’s driven by a desire to more effectively clean up pollution using the best materials for the job.”
The particles can also help convert solar energy to electricity, according to the London-based WGC, which has invested in solar-technology company Oxford Photovoltaics Ltd. In fuel cells, they can improve electrical conductivity, Keel said, citing Ford Motor Co.’s use of a gold-based coating for the devices, which produce electricity from a chemical reaction.
--Editors: Amanda Jordan, John Viljoen