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Because of its strength, durability, and other chemical properties, gold is useful for various environmental purposes.
Gold is used in water purification. Groundwater is often polluted by a great deal of chlorinated hydrocarbons, such as trichloroethene, which is used to remove grease from various components of the electronic, metal, and automotive industries. Trichloroethene is also used in cleaning textiles and consumer products, which explains its ubiquity. Iron was used to clean trichloroethene in the past, but the chemical reaction produces harmful waste products. Research the Rice University has shown that nanoparticles composed of gold and palladium can act as active catalysts in breaking down trichloroethene. This can be useful in removing the pollutant from groundwater, especially since it has also been linked to cancer, liver damage, and impaired pregnancy.
Catalysts, however, cost a good deal of money, which makes them difficult to adopt widely. The nanoparticles created at Rice University contain gold nanoparticles that are coated with small amounts of palladium atoms. While this technique may still appear expensive, the nanoparticles make up for their cost in activity. These findings have also been supported by work at the Indian Institute of Technology.
Gold can also be used in controlling mercury effluents, especially those that come from power plants. Mercury consumption has been linked to autism and Alzheimer’s disease. A technique is being developed to introduce a catalyst, which will speed up the oxidation of mercury; gold catalysts are in full scale trials through the National Energy Technology Laboratory.
Gold has also shown possibility for controlling pollution caused by diesel engines. For instance, NS Gold, a tri-metal conglomeration of gold, platinum, and palladium, can be adjusted to meet the specific needs of various engines as well as the fluctuating prices of these metals. Gold is also showing promise as a catalyst in the green chemical industry. For instance, demand is increasing for biomass-derived feedstocks. The Center for Sustainable and Green Chemistry at the Technical University of Denmark have shown that gold can be used to break down biomass-derived chemicals into their methyl esters, which can be used for various industries, including fragrance and plastics.
These are only a few uses for gold in the environmental industry. With more research, there will certainly be more ways that gold can help make our lives greener.