The pirite, historically nicknamed “fool’s gold“because of its resemblance to the expensive metal, it is actually more precious than you think. Scientists at Curtin University have found that it can hide small amounts of truth oro. The study was published in Geology and describes a third way Au is trapped inside the pyrite. This novelty could lead to identify new methods of extracting gold increasing the quantity available.
The discovery of gold hidden in pyrite
Pyrite is known as “fool’s gold“from the time of the gold rush in 1840, when inexperienced prospectors mistook the iron disulfide compound for Au. However, the research from Curtin University, in collaboration with the University of Western Australia and the China University of Geosciences, could change the cards. Inside the pirite there are small amounts of real gold, called “invisible gold“, because it is not observable with normal microscopes but only with sophisticated scientific instruments. In the 1980s it was discovered that gold in pyrite can appear both in particles and as an alloy in which it mixes with pyrite.
The new study has identified a third way gold can be trapped in the pirite. When the crystal is forming at extreme temperatures or pressures, it can develop imperfections in its crystal structure that can be “decorated” with gold atoms, tiny particles 100,000 times smaller than the width of a hair. To detect the gold atoms you need an atomic probe that allows you to build a 3D map with the precise locations of the particles.
“The rate of discovery of new gold deposits is decreasing around the world as the quality of the ore deteriorates, parallel to the increase in the value of precious metals,” said Dr. Dennis Fogeros, lead researcher of the Curtin School of Earth and Planetary Sciences. “What we found is that their it can also be housed in crystal defects in size nanometric“. Pyrite could therefore become a potential “gold mine“.
The new research provides interesting insights into how i mineral deposits and could be useful togold mining industry to be able to extract the metal more efficiently and sustainably, potentially reducing the greenhouse gas emissions. Generally gold is extracted using techniques that require a lot of energy, researchers are instead studying a process called selective leaching, using a liquid to selectively dissolve gold from pyrite.
About the sustainability, there are many new technologies and tools to make the environment cleaner. For example, a shark drone and a robot ship are being studied to rid the oceans of plastic.