Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia are developing a new method for mineral exploration companies, which will help them test for gold in ore samples at the spot on the drilling rig.
The university's Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) researchers used light in fluorescence and absorption processes to detect gold nanoparticles at detection limits 100 times lower than achievable under existing methods.
University of Adelaide postdoctoral researcher Dr Agnieszka Zuber said: "The presence of gold deep underground is estimated by analysis of rock particles coming out of the drilling holes.
"But current portable methods for detection are not sensitive enough, and the more sensitive methods require some weeks before results are available."
The portable, highly sensitive and easy-to-use sensor will allow fast detection at the drill rig with the amount of gold determined within a short span of time.
Using the technology, researchers could detect less than 100 parts per billion of gold in water. Testing using samples of real rock have also produced promising results.
The gold detection project will be presented at the IPAS Minerals and Energy Sector Workshop where the resources specific research will be introduced to local companies.
Australia Manufacturing and Innovation Minister Kyam Maher said: "Technology plays a central role in the competitiveness of South Australian manufacturing, supporting innovation, driving product and service development and improving manufacturing performance."
The Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre has provided funding for the project.