NASA is seeking a contractor to do some gold mining at the agency’s Glenn Research Centre (GRC) in Cleveland, Ohio, where approximately 1.8kg (4lb) of thin metal film scraps made of 24K gold are waiting to be reclaimed.
The scraps were created as GRC’s electron and optical device branch built integrated circuits for the agency’s integrated vehicle health management program aimed at the next generation of manned launch systems. The thin film processing techniques included “E-beam evaporation and RF Sputter metal depositions” using a combination of pure gold, silver, titanium, chromium, platinum, aluminum, nickel, molybdenum, germanium and tungsten, according to the 19 December solicitation.
“After years of performing these depositions and cleaning the chamber walls of the reactors where the depositions have been performed, an abundance of metal thin film scraps accumulated,” says NASA. “The accumulated weight of the metal thin scraps is approximately 5 lbs. To the best of our knowledge, 80 to 85 % of the 5 lbs is gold.”
The agency wants the contractor to reclaim the 24K gold at a purity level of 99.99% and deliver the goods back to the US government “in usable nuggets packaged in standard commercial manner,” according to the announcement. At today’s gold prices, that’s a value of about $50,000.