Featured Element: Gold!

By: Carlos Bryan M. Tecson

One of the most famous elements in the whole world, gold has been used in many important things, such as in industry, medicine, and many other applications. Gold has been noticed for its shining beauty, usually used in jewelry, coins and some artworks that started over a thousand years ago. Gold is one of the pure metals used by humans. Because of its uses in the economic industry, gold has been an important factor when it comes to politics; it has caused wars between many civilizations and nations.

Gold is a transition metal, it has low reactivity, meaning it can be found naturally in its pure form, which is believed that it’s one of the first elemental known to man. Gold also is one of the two metals having a golden color (the other being Caesium). Wondering how gold has its color? Let’s talk about its electrons. Color of metals can be explained by the transitions of electrons between the atom’s higher energy atomic orbitals; this is a result of absorption of wavelengths of light. The atom’s electrons move at a speed caused by the high number of protons in the nucleus. The speed of those electrons is a significant proportion of the speed of the light. With the help of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, we can say that the mass of the electrons at rest is less than that of the electrons moving, resulting to a contraction of the atomic orbitals’ sizes.  For gold, the contraction means that the difference in energy of the its two highest energy atomic orbitals is equivalent to that of blue light, causing the electrons absorb blue and violet light and reflects red and orange light, appearing as gold.

There are many more properties gold possess, it is ductile and malleable, it can’t combine with oxygen or dissolve in most acids, it does easily react with halogens. These properties can explain important uses of gold. For example, gold coins don’t have rust, neither does jewelry made from gold. With these properties and some technical terms that I’ve talked about, I hoped that you learned something from this week’s featured element, I hope you know how chemistry works in gold.

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