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Gold has held a special place in society since its discovery. Its first recorded use was over 6000 years ago. Gold is one of the 10 rarest elements on Earth, and yet historically, over 80% of gold produced has been used for discretionary purposes, including non-essential applications such as jewellery. In its massive state, gold is largely inert and non-reactive, making it durable and tarnish resistant. It is highly malleable and ductile, and can be beaten into microscopically thin sheets, with 1 ounce (28g) of gold able to be drawn into a wire 80km in length. At nanoparticle size, however, gold displays fundamentally different properties, and serves as a highly effective catalyst, with significant biocompatibility characteristics as well. In the context of sustainable development, gold mining has massive negative environmental and social consequences, and yet has also fuelled the economic development of many countries. The application of specifically gold nanoparticles to sustainable development efforts is highly promising. Gold in nanotechnology is being used in pollution control measures, to reduce energy consumption, in nanotechnology for electronic applications, and in diagnostic and treatment options for a range of global health conditions including cancer and HIV/AIDS. With more gold available above ground than in the unmined reserves, improved recycling efforts and the release of the vast stocks could substantially fuel progress towards achieving a sustainable future.

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