Gold From Sea Water: Truth or Myth?

Scientifically speaking Gold has atomic number 79 which is higher than iron, it is thought to have formed from a supernova nucleosynthesis process and is called Aurum in Latin. Speaking in terms of a woman, it’s an amazing metal that nobody can have enough of. This yellow wonder has been a thing of envy and obsession for many ever since it has been discovered by man. Mining for gold has been observed in Egyptian civilizations as early as 2600 BC and it hasn’t stopped since then. From being the wisest financial investment and exchange means, to its ability to mould in to beautiful jewelry, Gold is not only a symbol of wealth but with its contribution to health and food sector, it has come be known as a miracle metal by many.


Golden Seas: Really?

The search for this magical element has led mankind on a number of successful and futile attempts during which no place on earth has been spared. And that is where the attention shifted to the deep waters of the abundant seas and oceans. S. Sonstadt, the English chemist, was the first to establish its presence in the sea water in 1872 and since then many researches have revealed that gold indeed is found in many water bodies, with highest concentration of it being in the Bering Sea, but sea water contains gold in solution. This research led to searching the ocean and sea waters for extraction of gold worldwide. So where can we expect gold dissolved in sea water? Well apart from Bering Sea, places like Nome (Alaska), California, Mid-ocean ridges of Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and even Austria have been reported to have waters dissolved with gold.

Though gold is found in sea water, how much of it is found is somewhat controversial. That is because gold’s extreme dilution, necessity of ultrapure reagents and gold’s tendency to precipitate out of solution during preservation, makes the experimental procedures on it a bit difficult. But according to various studies done and average and approximate value of 0.2to 2mg/ton of gold, depending on the location, has been agreed upon.  Meager you might think but maybe enough to launch people into a frantic search!


Extraction: Distant dream or closer reality?

Distant dream according to many and fruitful venture according to the more daring. Many attempts have been made to successfully extract gold from the sea water, but none successful enough to bear a fruit. Many chemists and scientists, in a hope to make themselves and their countries richer, have tried to develop many methods to extract gold from water but all in vain. The most famous attempt perhaps was by German chemist Fritz Haber, of Haber-Bosch process, who tried to extract gold from sea water to pay Germany’s post World War debt. And like all the attempts done before this one yielded no results as well.

In theory, some say, it is possible but in reality the cost of such an endeavor will definitely outweigh the cost of the gold extracted. No commercially viable procedure for extracting gold from sea water has been identified as yet and doesn’t have much hope in the future. Why? Picture this; There is one milligram of gold in a ton of sea water which implies that in order to get one gram of gold a million pounds of water has to be processed, which means to get an ounce you have to process 30 million pounds! This is not just extremely time consuming, the extracted gold will never be able to compensate the cost of the experiment.

But these studies didn’t deter a lot of crooks and fraudsters to claim that they can successfully extract gold from seawater. In the 1890s an alleged-reverend Prescott Jernegan duped many people in a gold-from-sea water swindle after stealing gold from the rich and later claiming to have extracted from the sea. Needless to say he was caught and later fed to Europe.


Future might be bright!

With so many technological advancements, the theory of extracting gold from sea water might turn in to a living reality. People all over the world are searching for a successful mechanism that can extract water from water without exorbitant costs involved, but these researches and experiments have still to meet successful ending. So till that time that seawater becomes our gold’s source, we would have to depend on the neighborhood jeweler for our yellow metal cravings!


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