Fool's Gold - using ultrasound technology to combat counterfeiting
August 28, 2011
Evidently all that glitters is not entirely gold. Just ask the many disappointed bankers and investors who have discovered some of their large gold bullion bars were ersatz - real gold on the outside, far less valuable tungsten on the inside. Enter General Electric with its Phasor series of portable ultrasonic detectors. Using non-invasive technology identical to that deployed in peering at developing fetuses, GE's devices allow a quick and thorough examination of gold bars for flaws, bubbles and even different materials.
Downplayed by the media to avert potential worldwide panic, the story has understandably received little mainstream press, but, as the value of standard 400 oz. bars nears US$700,000, it's easy to understand why gold counterfeiting is on the rise.
Tungsten, similar in weight and specific gravity to gold, makes an ideal choice for salting bogus bars. China Tungsten Online, for example, unabashedly offers gold-plated tungsten products for sale with the proviso that they not be used for "illegal purpose."
Where the metal differs from gold is in its hardness. Until recently, short of drilling into the bar, there was no convenient, reliable way to separate the genuine from the fake - that's where GE's portable ultrasonic detectors come in.
Conventional ultrasonic devices generally yield images that are often difficult to decipher, especially for the layperson. GE's Phasor XS, however, with its computer-controlled, phased array probe, yields simple images that even minimally-trained operators find easy to interpret. This is good news for companies like physical bullion supplier, GoldMoney, which finished the months-long inspection of its vast metal holdings earlier this year.
Procuring the technology to ensure clients peace of mind seems to be an investment decision worth its weight in, well, tungsten, at least!
The inspection technology is demonstrated in the following video from GoldMoney: