Since gold and other metals are elements, can they be irretrievably destroyed?

The thread about the gold leaf covered steak got me to thinking. I know you’ll just poop out edible gold and “mine” the poop And I know gold can be dissolved by certain acid(s), but is it really gone or can it be retrieved from the acid solution just a you’re able separate gold, silver and other metals with other acid solutions.

It’s probably possible to fuse multiple atoms of gold into some denser element, like combining hydrogen in regular fusion reactions to create helium, but given that gold is created in supernovas, it’s probably beyond our reach.

The Gold in Gold chloride and the like can be recovered as elemental Gold by strong heating, reaction with Mercury or electroplating at the worst. To destroy Gold, you’ll have to hit it with a neutron beam or a proton beam. Those will produce either other elements or unstable isotopes that decay to other elements.

Even the most stable isotope of gold can be exposed to radiation, like say a neutron flux, and so be made to undergo some form of decay or capture that would make it “not gold.”

So, yes. Just like every other element.

Well, you could boil gold at 2970[sup]o[/sup] C, which would make it highly impractical to retrieve, especially if you let it escape through an industrial chimney during high winds. I guess it would quickly condense and settle like spray paint if you’d like to walk around and pick it up speck by speck with really tiny tweezers.

George de Hevesy famously dissolved his Nobel prize in acid to protect it from being stolen by the Nazis. It was easily retrieved and recast into a medal after the war. The dissolved gold was simply stored on a shelf in the lab.

Nitpick: it wasn’t his own Nobel prize that he dissolved, it was two Nobel prizes that had been awarded to Max von Laue and James Franck.

What, you expect me to read my own cite? (thanks for the correction)

What about those who claim to be working towards retrieving the gold and other precious metals contained in seawater? There was a guy on *Shark Tank * who wanted the sharks to fund a seawater gold mining operation. Guess how many sharks he got to fund him?

Yeah, I saw that on TV. Here’s a question. When the gold was dissolved, did it occupy the same mass (is that the correct term) and weigh the same (i.e. increased the solution’s weight by whatever amount of gold was dissolved)? Sorry, not even grade school level when it comes to this type of science.

Conservation of mass holds here, but most likely during the dissolving process, a large amount of gas was emitted. So one would have to account for that: mass(gold) + mass(acid) = mass(dissolved solution) + mass(emitted gas), but I don’t know enough about the chemistry to say what the breakdown is.

Technically there would also be a small change due to the change in energy. The bonds carry less energy in the dissolved solution (the remainder having been carried away as heat), which means the whole thing weights a tiny bit less than it otherwise would. But we’re talking nanograms here.

There’s a video showing how to extract metallic bismuth from Pepto-Bismol. The chemistry seems fairly simple.

Weirdly enough, gold chloride smells a bit like garlic.

The final solution should weigh the same as the separate acid and gold. Mostly. Fresh aqua regia has some dissolved gasses that will dissipate. This is why you don’t cap the fresh bottle of aqua regia and blow it up like my labmate did.

Volume is tricky. Dissolving one substance in another can change how the solvent molecules interact, causing the volume to increase or decrease. See partial molar volumes.

My guess is the volume will be less the the sum of individual volumes, but I couldn’t tell you by how much.

This is a famous and ancient scam.

There are actually people working on extracting uranium from seawater, with some success. It’s not commercially viable though.

In Alaska gold is mined off the bottom of the ocean just offshore. The divers are connected to a hose that feeds them hot water. They even mine in winter by cutting holes in the ice. I guess the water is not all that much warmer in summer which is their main mining season.

Stable atoms such as gold (and every other type of non-radioactive atom that make up the vast majority of matter we have here on the Earth) are stable enough to be considered virtually eternal.

They can be changed by powerful forces inside the core of stars, or supernovas, or changed by manmade nuclear reactions, or changes in small amounts by cosmic rays (such as how Carbon 14 is created, the carbon used for carbon dating)

Other than that, non-radioactive atoms making up the Earth 4 billion years ago are still on the Earth today, and will be on the Earth 4 billions years from now, whether or not we decide to eat or not eat them, or combine them chemically with some other atoms.

This is possibly the greatest thing I’ve ever read on the Dope.

Imagine his embarrassment if the labels fell off when they were waiting. “Um, this one’s yours, Max, and that other one’s Jimmy’s… I think.”

I saw that episode.
The Sharks really showed their ignorance on that one. They rejected him based on his business model, not on the utter impossibility of the ever doing this economically. Not one of them asked “How much would it cost to process a cubic mile of seawater?"