By Anupum Pant
Hunt for a process to convert a brick of lead into gold was probably the most elusive quest during the olden times when alchemy was around. However, alchemists, who were mostly dismissed as pseudoscientific quacks, actually did some good ground work to make their dream of turning lead to gold into a reality.
And then came the 20th century, when transmutation of one element to another became fairly common. In fact nuclear reactors started working on the same principle. So, besides breaking of uranium atoms and combining of hydrogen atoms to form helium, did it actually become possible to transmute lead into gold using the same process?
Sure it did. Today it is totally possible to make lead (Atomic number 82) release 3 protons to turn into gold (Atomic number 79). Not just in theory, people have actually done it successfully in laboratories. For one, Glenn Seaborg is said to have done it in the year 1951.
To do this, you’d need a particle accelerator. And if you plan to use it as a get rich quick scheme, then you are in for a bad news. Transmuting lead to gold in a laboratory consumes massive amounts of energy, even if you have to do it in extremely minute volumes. So much that the price of doing it exceeds the price of gold by a very big amount. Also, only a very minute volume of gold comes out this way.
To make a single ounce of gold this, it would cost you one quadrillion dollars. You could just buy the same amount for $1300 instead.