Hundreds of millions of dollars of gold is dug up but then discarded each year because it's not detected in ore. Researchers at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Resource Association have developed a new method to find tiny amounts of gold in ore. Their gamma-activation analysis (GAA), similar to hospital x-rays, is faster and more accurate than the chemical analysis that's currently used in the mining industry. Current methods also require heating ore to 1200 degrees C and involve the use of lead. Researchers plan to adapt the GAA process for silver, lead, zinc, tin, copper, and the platinum group metals.

Better detection of metals means better resource recovery and less waste. It will be interesting to see how the same technology also might be applied to finding tiny amounts of valuable materials in discarded tech and other products.