-1
$\begingroup$

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synthesis_of_precious_metals, precious metals can be synthsized using fission. I think that if we found a way to do it with fusion, it would be more efficient and more of the ingredients would turn into the desired element with less of the ingredients getting wasted. According to this answer, gold cannot support crack propagation at all. If we synthesized gold using fusion, maybe we could produce so much of it and use it as a building material without worrying that it will suddenly and unpredictably fracture.

There are also disadvantages to using gold. Gold is so weak compared to other materials. Also according to this answer, when two spheres of a given material collide with each other at a given speed, the strength they must have in order to resist forming a crack or denting varies as their shear modulus to the power of $\frac{4}{5}$ but the yield strength of gold might be much smaller than its shear modulus so two spheres of gold might not withstand collisions with a speed of 5 m/s without denting.

$\endgroup$
3
  • $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's beyond unrealistic. $\endgroup$ Jun 5 '18 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ This looks like a 'Novel Idea' question. Such questions tend to become moving targets and lead to discussions, neither of which are a good fit for our format. See if you can edit your question to make it specific and answerable. $\endgroup$
    – Wasabi
    Jun 6 '18 at 0:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Wasabi Maybe this question is more suitable for ResearchGate. I can't ask a question on ResearchGate but maybe a researcher could post a similar question to this one on ResearchGate citing this question. $\endgroup$
    – Timothy
    Jun 6 '18 at 18:51
3
$\begingroup$

To produce precious metals via fission, you need a starting metal with about twice the atomic weight of the desired end product. In practical terms this means the starting metal is more precious than the end product.

Furthermore, the fission process releases neutrons and gamma rays in deadly quantities, and the fission products are themselves often violently radioactive for periods of time ranging from hours to centuries.

The fission process is also "unclean" from the standpoint that you do not get two clean halves of the raw material as the product; you get a variety of fission products from which you then must sort out the one you wanted in the first place. Remember that since most of the fission products are to one degree or another radioactive, this implies wet chemical extraction processing in a highly radioactive environment.

Fusion processes are even more difficult to master for the purposes of making your own precious metals, for a variety of reasons that I will summarize below.

If we take two heavy elements and endeavor to press them together hard enough to fuse them into one heavier element, we discover that the amount of pressure required to get the nuclei close enough together to fuse is truly gigantic because of how hard they electrostatically repel one another. we have been trying for almost 70 years to invent some way of doing this and we are not there yet. This process is so hard to trigger that the only way it happens in bulk is in the collapsing core of a supermassive star during a supernova.

If we instead take one heavy element and try to add neutrons or protons to it one or two at a time, we find that the most likely outcome is that as soon as we add them, the resulting nucleus is highly unstable and quickly decays or fissions or spits out a small lump of neutrons and protons and the net yield of heavier nuclei is tiny.

In this case, the only environment in which this process produces heavier nuclei in bulk quantities occurs in the extended envelope of a red giant star and takes hundreds of thousands of years. Small quantities of heavy elements (specifically, isotopes of plutonium) can be made this way by starting with uranium and subjecting it to extremely intense neutron bombardment- which is how we make plutonium for use in fission bombs. This process is extraordinarily expensive, hazardous, and produces huge quantities of highly radioactive waste which require foolproof deep storage for tens of thousands of years.

$\endgroup$
6
  • $\begingroup$ It would be great for you to edit this answer to give a full explanation after you take enough time to research how to make it a really good answer. I think I successfully trained myself to become better at writing emails faster by insisting on breaking by past habit of constantly thinking and inserting or moving text and deciding ahead what I'm going to write then starting to write without inserting or moving any text. I still sometimes write a decent email without doing that at all then do that a bit at the end to make it better. Maybe community wiki can help research a really good answer. $\endgroup$
    – Timothy
    Jun 4 '18 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe bombarding some nuclei into other nuclei at nearly the speed of light with a Hardon collider could work. Maybe a small amount of liquid hydrogen could be detonated in a container that can withstand its explosion where as soon as some hydrogen atoms fuse into helium atoms, they provide enough heat to make the reaction spread very fast creating high enough temperature and pressure for some of it to fuse all the way to gold even though at low pressure, iron won't fuse because the repulsion between the protons exceeds the short range nuclear attraction. $\endgroup$
    – Timothy
    Jun 5 '18 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ that's unlikely, but worth researching via google or the LHC website. $\endgroup$ Jun 5 '18 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ minor nit: there's strong evidence that higher-atomic number elements are generated in neutron stars rather than supernova. $\endgroup$ Jun 5 '18 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ @carlwitthof hi carl i also left out things like the x-process which occur (i think) in the airless vacuum of interstellar space- i was trying to hit the high spots... by the way how does the neutron star distribute those elements into its surroundings, or are they trapped in it forever? best regards, niels $\endgroup$ Jun 5 '18 at 18:03

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.