Gold is a precious metal that can only be found in certain places around the world. Producing this metal in a lab would certainly be an easier solution, yet it is not feasible. Even with all of the advancements in the past few decades, the price tag remains too high.
Is it Possible to Create Gold in a lab?
Short answer: yes, it can be done with a bit of effort. Long answer: yes, it can be done with a bit of effort and spending a lot more money than gold is worth. To understand why this is even possible, one needs to be aware of how gold is created in nature. Repeating this process in a lab or controlled environment is certainly possible, but very costly.
Gold consists of protons, like most other natural elements found on this planet. To be more precise, gold consists of 79 protons in each atomic nucleus. Every atom with exactly 79 protons is referred to as a “gold atom”. Looking at it from a chemical perspective, all gold atoms will always behave in the same manner.
Keeping that in mind, it becomes somewhat easy to figure out the building blocks necessary. All it takes is 79 protons and enough neutrons to create a stable atomic nucleus. Another option is to simply remove one proton from mercury – which has 80 protons – but that is a different option altogether.
This is where things get a lot more complicated. Adding, removing, or combining protons sounds very simple on paper, but is very complex in the real world. All of these functions are nuclear reactions, which cannot be completed by human hands. Instead, it will require these reactions to be performed, which costs a fair amount of money.
A Very Costly way of Creating Gold
In theory, yes, it remains possible to create gold from other elements with some trickery. Doing so is not feasible, however, as achieving nuclear reactions is very difficult, and extremely costly. The total costs of going down this route will vastly outweigh the value created in gold. It is not an option worth exploring under the current circumstances.
That doesn’t mean it could not become feasible in the future. Nuclear research can evolve in a significant way and allow nuclear reactions to occur both cheaper and more conveniently. If and when that will ever happen, remains an unknown factor. Another option is to see gold explode in value, making it feasible to create it from other elements and still turn a profit.
There is an Alternative, but a Useless One
For those who have a lot – and we mean A LOT – of patience, there is another option to explore. A cheaper way is to remove one neutron from platinum – which has 80 neutrons – to get the correct number. Once completed, one can rely on “natural decay” to ultimately create gold.
The downside to this method is how the platinum needs to be hammered with neutrons to achieve this process. As a result, the gold created after natural decay will most likely become radioactive.
This makes it impossible to sell commercially, as it would harm our species first and foremost. Unless this issue can be circumvented somehow, it is not a viable method to explore either. Furthermore, if the gold suffers from radioactive decay, it will no longer be gold after a while either, but something else entirely.