Minerals at Home

20th Sep 2023
Meet Arlia – a budding tech enthusiast, who’s vying for first place in a science competition with her new invention; VR goggles that find minerals in everyday products. To solve an overheating issue, Arlia needs to find gold or silver somewhere around her house and in the process is also fascinated to discover how minerals make our lives safer, easier, and fun!

Take a second to reflect on all the electronic devices in your house that are powered by tiny electrons travelling through the walls of your house to energise all your electrical needs. All electronic devices depend on the fact that metals conduct electricity easily and have minimal resistance to the electron flow. 

Let’s find out more about the metals that make our electronic world more exciting.

Copper (Cu): The Dependable Conductor

Copper is the ultimate balance of price and conductivity and is one of the most abundant metals used in electronic devices. Copper has great electrical conductivity and is responsible for connecting not only all the power points in your house but also makes up a lot of the wiring in your favourite electronic devices.

Gold (Au): The Trustworthy Connector

Gold is malleable, rare and expensive but is also highly conductive, meaning electricity can easily flow through it with minimal resistance. It offers a superior level of electrical conductivity. Unlike silver and copper, this precious metal is resistant to tarnishing. Gold doesn’t mix well with oxygen. Even when left outdoors for long periods of time, it will absorb little or no oxygen. This is important because oxygen is responsible for tarnishing (as well as rusting). When oxygen mixes with a metal, it causes the metal to oxidize, which then leads to tarnishing or other forms of corrosion.

Silver (Ag): The Superior Conductor

Silver is the superior cousin to copper, but as the conductivity of silver increases, so does its cost. Its ability to allow electrical current to flow with minimal resistance makes it very useful to manufacturing high-end electronics. Silver is used in switches, connectors and contacts within devices; you may not be able to see the silver, but it’s there and is helping in the transmission of electrons.

Aluminium (Al): Light and Cooling

Although sometimes aluminium can be used to transport electrical current, it’s most widely used in electronic devices as a heat sink. Aluminium is excellent at dissipating heat that can build up from even the most effective conductors such as copper. As electricity flows through the conductor electrons bump against the atoms causing friction. Aluminium allows this heat to be released without damaging the electronic device.

Lithium (Li): Powering our future

Lithium has emerged as a critical metal for battery technology which will enables the storing of energy produced from renewable resources to use when the sun doesn’t shine, or wind doesn’t blow. The lightweight nature of lithium makes it perfect for lithium-ion batteries to power the electronic devices we all use so much such as smartphones, laptops, tablets to name a few.

These precious metals are all around you in your electronic devices like your mobile phone, smart TV or gaming console. 

Metals are the key to your fun and Australia’s resources industry produces commodities that are critical for the transition to a low carbon future.