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For the first time, scientists have found gold particles in boiling fluids from a hydrothermal vent.

A scanning electron microscope image.
A scanning electron microscope image showing a gold particle (bright spot) collected from the boiling fluids from a hydrothermal vent. Scale bar is 25 micrometers.

USGS scientist Amy Gartman and coauthors published their discovery in the journal Geology. Gold is one of the metals in hydrothermal vent deposits that may make mining them economical. The discovery of gold colloids—particles smaller than 1 micron (a human hair is about 60 microns in diameter) suspended in seawater—will advance understanding of how, and how fast, seafloor gold deposits form. Gartman and colleagues collected the colloids from hydrothermal fluids at Niua volcano in the South Pacific on a 2016 Schmidt Ocean Institute cruise. Gold colloids are widely used in biomedicine and technology and have long been hypothesized to exist in natural fluids. This study is the first to find them in hydrothermal fluids.

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