Fridge Problems – (on the lighter side)

Written by Dr Klaus L E Kaiser

A generation ago, few people had tattoos and those were mostly hidden beneath clothes. More recently, tattoos (both having and showing them) appear to have become common accoutrements of parts of modern society. Just walk down any street in summer temperature and you’ll see all kinds of personal embellishments “engraved” on skins of various ages and colors.

Some of these ancient designs are going to be replaced (??) soon by more modern designs, like those also functioning as electronic signaling devices for your hand-held phone, tabloid, or whatever. Their big feature is supposed to be your ability to control your fridge, home lights, or other electric home gadgets – just by touching your shiny gold-leaf-tattoo as in the pics below.


These new “tattoos” look really elegant; Egypt’s Queen Cleopatra (69-30 BC) must be turning in her grave with envy. Hammered thin to a few thousands of an inch, gold leaf did not become widely available until centuries after her reign.

Malleable Gold

What makes gold an ideal element for gilding is not only its yellow shine and resistance to corrosion but also its great softness and ability to be hammered into extremely thin foils, a property termed malleability. The art of hammering gold into such thin foils still persists, for example in the German town of Schwabach. I’ve watched a demonstration of that a few years ago with the master-gold-foil-hammerer incessantly swinging a 20-pound hammer to flatten a stack of gold leafs separated by fine sheets of vellum. Those leafs can be hammered down to a thickness of 0.1 microns, or 0.0001 mm, or 0.000004 in. At that thickness, gold becomes a translucent foil of yellow-greenish color when seen against a bright light. As you can imagine, a single ounce of gold that thin can cover quite an area, like a small roof.

You can also buy some wines with such glittering gold flakes, or small bottles of dry gold flake material that is safe to ingest (recently U.S. FDA approved). Best of all, a sprinkling with such gold flakes may not change the taste of your most recent BBQ-dish dish but may certainly improve on its burnt (?) appearance!

But there is yet more to gold than glitter. Another property, highly valued, is its electric conductivity, among the metals next only to those of silver and copper.

Gold’s Electrical Conductivity

Gold’s superior electrical conductivity and resistance to corrosion makes it also an ideal contact for micro-electronic applications, like in earphone plug connectors (soon to be irrelevant?), electronic switches and the like. Again, only minute quantities of gold on the surface are sufficient to keep the electrons flowing across the physical boundaries without problems for a long time. The amount of gold really does not justify the additional cost of such items, but their long-term reliability sure does.

Now comes the great new innovation: Gold leaf tattoos that combine the glitter of gold with the metal’s malleability and electrical conductivity properties all in one application: gold foil tattoo-like skin coverings that can be used to control devices like cell phones and fridges just by touching your forearm.

Can you imagine, poor Cleo didn’t even have a cell phone to chat with her good friend Mark Anthony for hours every day. They had to meet in person, whenever the affairs of state allowed – what a dreary life! On second thought, perhaps, Cleo and Mark were having more fun that way.

But let’s come back to the issue at hand, e.g. controlling your fridge from your forearm. That’s where I’m getting a bit confused; really, what’s there to be set or controlled?

My Fridge

As far as I can reckon, my fridge does not need to be controlled (in terms of temperature) at all. In fact, I have not changed the internal fridge temperature settings for several years and would have no idea what I ought to do with that novel fridge-signaling tattoo device.

All I know is that I need to regularly complement my fridge with the right type of fluids as they keep disappearing at a pretty steady rate. That “shrinkage,” I understand to be a common problem with fridges of any make, a kind of natural shrinkage constant, if you like.

Do you think a forearm gold-leaf tattoo could possibly solve that shrinkage problem?

(Eligible answers will be entered into a draw for some refrigerated fluids).

Dr. Kaiser is an author of nearly 300 publications in scientific journals, government and national and international agency reports, books, trade magazines, and newspapers. He has been president of the Intl. Association for Great Lakes Research, and is a recipient of the Intl. QSAR Award. He is currently Director of Research of TerraBase Inc., and is a Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada.Dr. Kaiser is widely recognized for his expertise in environmental chemistry and his “no-nonsense” approach to issues. You can visit Dr. Kaiser’s website and reach him here: