Gold is created at UCIrvine’s nuclear plant

In March 1924, at the Tokyo Imperial University, Professor Hantaro Nagaoka directed 150,000 volts of electricity at a mercury isotope under a dialectic layer of paraffin oil for four hours in an early experiment with nuclear energy. The purpose was to strike out a hydrogen proton from the nucleus of the mercury and produce a new element, gold. The experiment was a success. Professor Hantaro Nagaoka solved the mystery that eluded scientists for centuries, the mystery of the Philosopher’s Stone.

The Philosopher’s Stone is the idea that you could have a magical material that could turn lead, or some very inexpensive metal, into gold. For thousands of years, kings sought out this mythical device, one that could create gold out of common metals. Scientists and alchemists for centuries have been trying to invent one. Even Sir Isaac Newton obsessed over the mystery of the Philosopher’s Stone in the 17th century. However, the English feared the potential devaluation of gold and made the practice of alchemy punishable by death.

Fast forward now a few centuries to present day Irvine.

According to Michael Dennin, a professor at UCI, gold is formed due to nuclear reactions, similar to those occuring in the sun. And now, since scientists can produce controlled nuclear reactions, scientists have the ability to manufacture gold from other elements. Michael’s colleague, Dr. A.J. Shaka, conducts experiments in alchemy on a daily basis.

Mercury 196, an isotope that can pick up a neutron, is placed in a nuclear reactor, and after 23 hours, it turns to gold. A real life Philosopher’s Stone at our university! However, a days’ worth of nuclear reactions will create 3/10 of a cent worth of gold but costs $200 per hour to operate the reactor. You’ll be far in the hole.

UCI was featured on the History Channel special: “How to make Gold from Metal Mercury”