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Generation of gold, silver, copper elements

  1. Nov 30, 2006 #1
    "Generation" of gold, silver, copper elements

    Since gold, and silver, and copper are all elements, I am a little confused - are they generated, or is there already only so much of each in the Earth, period?

    I know I found some data on Wikipedia that indicated that the various elements can be generated by different geological processes - copper for instance can come from lava flows - but is this just copper that came from deep within the Earth, or is it actually "created" somehow? If it's created, that would mean it's particular configuration of protons, neutrons, and electrons had to come about. So if it was "generated", then how did this happen ? I know diamonds are created by extreme heat and pressure, but diamonds are a molecular structure, and not a fundamental element...so just curious whether an actual element can be generated (other than of course in a supercollider ring)

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 30, 2006 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    The latter. The heavier elements were originally created in the interiors of stars, during a stellar evolution process that eventually leads to a supernova that disperses the atoms. Eventually some of the resulting interstellar dust and gas coalesced to form the solar system including its planets.

    As far as I know, the only elements whose atoms are actually created on or in the earth are the ones that arise from the decay of long-lived radioactive elements such as uranium, and short-lived ones created by cosmic-ray interactions. But these are probably mere traces compared to gold, silver, copper, iron, etc.
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