Using ultrasound to scan the integrity of gold bars

General Electric

Gold prices have jumped more than 16 percent since August, with the price per ounce now a whopping $1,358 — and some are already predicting we’ll hit $2,500 per ounce in two to three years.

With so much money flowing into gold, the industry is looking for new ways to not only ensure the integrity of the supply, but also to give new buyers peace of mind that their purchases are secure.

One of the world’s largest providers of physical bullion, United Kingdom-based GoldMoney, is now putting GE’s ultrasound technology to work doing just that — by scanning every one of its gold bars. It’s the same type of scan used to peer at babies in the womb, railroad tracks under stress, or wear and tear on jet engines.

GoldMoney buys gold, silver and platinum online and it then stores it for its customers in specialized bullion vaults in London, Zurich, and Hong Kong. While they already have steps to check the integrity of their bars, the new scans using GE’s flaw detector — which is called a Phasor XS and is made by GE’s Inspection Technologies business — are now being performed as part of their routine checks. By the first quarter of 2011, every one of their bars will have been run through an ultrasound.

As you can see in GoldMoney’s demo video below, the ultrasound is designed to spot gaps in the gold, such as air pockets, which might lead to a bar breaking or affect its weight — as well as look for the presence of other, non-precious, metals that may have been inserted into the bar. And unlike traditional ultrasounds, which can only be “read” by experts, these pictures show flaws that even a layperson can spot.

See the video:



Golden Eye: The ultrasound technology being used to scan gold bars is part of an entire family of scanning and monitoring technologies across all of GE’s businesses. Just a few include medical imaging, robotic scanners that travel through oil and gas pipelines, remote monitoring of jet engines, cameras that peer inside of jet and locomotive engines to inspect for wear, and railroad technologies that track speed and manage fleets to maximize efficiency.

* Read the announcement
* Learn the technical specs

Learn more in these GE Reports stories:
* “Micro-cameras & spas for metals at India Tech Center
* “Beyond the ER: Scans eye metals, circuits & roots

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