Semiconductors are valuable. At Wafer World, that’s why we’re so careful at every step of the process to ensure that your wafers are grown and manufactured to the highest standards. Laser marking and clean rooms are just two of the many tools we utilize to ensure that value is maintained.
While most of a semiconductor’s value lies in its electronic uses, it’s also interesting to consider the value of the materials used to make it. For instance, gold is infamous for being a valuable metal, and yet it can be found in many electronic devices.
Today, we’ll discuss where you can find gold in computers, what it’s doing there, and the various efforts being made to recycle the gold.
Depending on how old a computer is, gold can be found in all the following parts:
Circuit boards are the biggest users of gold: more specifically, motherboards. This is because gold can be found on their surfaces and connectors.
Other precious metals like copper and aluminum can be found in electronics, as well. That said, these materials aren't as highly valued as gold.
Gold is expensive, which begs the question: why is it used in computers? This metal has several properties that make it desirable:
Because it’s expensive, manufacturers try to use it as little as possible. During earlier eras of computing, gold was used more because we didn’t know else how to build these machines. However, over time, suitable replacements have been found for some computer parts.
Typically, chip manufacturers evaluate the costs of materials during the design phase. They’re then able to weigh the benefits of each material versus their costs. This means that gold is only used when absolutely necessary.
Yes, the amount of gold used in chip production has significantly decreased. This is in part because many electronics have gotten smaller, necessitating less gold. That said, the biggest shift occurred in 1998. At this point, solid gold wiring stopped being used in IC packaging.
Most of the gold you’ll find in devices these days is plated, as opposed to being made from solid gold. As you might expect, this significantly decreases the amount of gold that can be extracted.
If you’re looking for devices specifically for the purpose of extracting gold, it’s worth looking at devices made in the 60s and 70s. These devices used the most gold, both because technology had not advanced and because the military wanted to ensure their devices were resistant to heat and corrosion.
Given all the shortages the world has experienced since 2020, you may be wondering if the world’s gold supply could be another difficulty leading to semiconductor shortages. Luckily, gold mining is still expected to be profitable for decades to come.
The most cautious predictions estimate that gold mining will stop being profitable in 2050, but most people believe there will be more discoveries before then, which would make gold mining profitable for longer.
While gold is a nonrenewable resource, the situation won't be dire when we can no longer mine it out of the ground. This is because gold remains, even when it’s used for jewelry, electronics, and so on.
When gold runs out, recycling programs will likely go into overdrive, ensuring that gold currently in landfills is found so it can be used in other products.
The world produces 50 million tons of e-waste every year, which translates to 1,000 laptops per second. A single laptop can contain anywhere from $15-$25 worth of gold. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of gold in e-waste.
While recycling efforts are increasing in order to salvage this gold, they’re far from all-encompassing. In fact, only 12.5% of e-waste is recycled at present.
There are many initiatives currently in place to increase the electronic components that get recycled. If you’re interested, it may be worth reading more about our GaAs, InP reclaim process.
Luckily, e-waste can be recycled, even once it’s in a landfill. While it’s more efficient to recycle electronics originally, there are people who scavenge through junkyards to find recyclable materials.
There are several reasons why it’s typically not wise for a non-professional to extract the gold from old electronics:
If you have a computing device that has gold, it’s typically advisable to bring it to a professional refiner. They will give you a portion of the profits, without requiring you to invest in startup costs or endanger yourself.
If you’re looking for a high-quality wafer company, you’ve come to the right place. At Wafer World, we’re committed to helping our clients get the wafers that will take their business to the next level. Our state-of-the-art facility produces wafers for a wide variety of clients.
Along with silicon wafers, we offer Germanium, GaAs, Sapphire, InP, and more. If there’s a wafer you would like that you can’t find on our site, you can request a free quote on our site.
Do you have any questions about what we can do for you? Would you like to speak with one of our representatives about how the right wafers can take your business to the next level? Please don’t hesitate to contact us today.