The role of precious metals in the electronics industry

Are you holding a gadget in your hand? Well, guess what, it’s made up of gold, silver, platinum, palladium, and other precious metals. So next time you look up the silver or gold rate today at Rourkela and find it rising you would know that it might be because of the massive use of precious metals in the electronic industry. There’s a reason for the small amounts of precious metals inside your mobile phone or tablet device — they share one common property that separates them from most other metals: excellent conductivity. In addition to excellent conductivity, these precious metals share several properties that make them superior to other metals in a variety of ways. Let’s see why…

  1. Silver

Silver (Ag) is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, with high reflectivity. It is used in semiconductors, printed circuit boards, flat panel displays, and electrical contacts. Silver’s antimicrobial properties are being studied for use in hospital equipment. In addition to its electrical and thermal conductivity, silver has a low melting point and is easily shapeable into a variety of forms. Typical applications using silver include:

  • Plating on connectors, switch and relay contacts
  • Printed circuit boards
  • Flash memory devices
  • Hard silver is used as a sintering aid for semiconductors
  1. Gold

Gold (Au) is used in electronics for its excellent electrical conductivity and resistance to corrosion. Small amounts of gold are found in nearly all electronics today, including mobile phones, PCs, and televisions. This also affects gold prices, however, you might not notice it if you look up today’s gold rate in Kumbakonam or any other city since the effect is mostly cumulative and shows signs in the long run. See more. Gold’s superior conductivity and resistance to corrosion make it the most effective metal for a variety of electrical connections.

Because of its purity, gold is not subject to tarnishing or oxidation, which allows it to retain its appearance over decades without requiring much maintenance.

Gold is also renowned for being extremely malleable; it can be hammered into almost impossibly thin sheets and still retain its strength. This makes it ideal for use in microelectronics applications such as semiconductors and flash memory devices, where each component must be able to carry a tiny charge.

Gold’s conductivity comes from the fact that its atoms are arranged in an unusual crystal structure that allows electrons to move easily between them. This structure also makes gold extremely resistant to corrosion by air or chemicals, which means it will not tarnish or rust even over decades of use.

Palladium

  1. Palladium

With unique characteristics of high electrical conductivity, thermal stability, and catalytic activity, palladium has extensive use in electronic devices and automotive catalysts. Palladium is extensively used as an alternative to platinum as a catalyst in the chemical industry, with around 40% of its demand coming from Japan. Palladium is also used in electronics; particularly in multilayer ceramic capacitors and electrolytic capacitors, which are used extensively in computers, laptops, and other electronic devices.

  1. Platinum

Platinum is a naturally occurring element, but its ore is so rare that 80% of the world supply comes from a single mine in Russia. It cannot be produced by any practical means, and so it is regarded as a precious metal. It is used in electronics as a conductor and contact material; the contacts on silicon chips are often made of platinum. It is also used in thermocouples, which convert heat to an electric current; in fine resistance wires; as a coating for permanent magnets; and as a fabricating material for high-grade glass. In its alloy form, it can be used as a magnetic coating for hard drive disks, optical storage systems, and electroluminescent diodes.

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