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Space Tech Goes To The Oscars: Statuettes And NASA Telescopes Use The Same Gold Coating

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NASA telescopes and Oscars trophies have something in common — their shiny gold coating is made by the same company. Epner Technology uses gold electroplating for NASA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The recently concluded Oscars awarding ceremonies teemed with celebrities and talented actors, but the real star of the awards night was the little statuette that everyone was eyeing — the Oscars trophy.

Who would have known that the golden trophy given to the best in their field has some space tech on it? The Oscars statuette uses the same electroplated gold present in NASA telescopes.

Gold Is The Best

The same company that is working on NASA's telescopes since the 1970s is now in charge of electroplating the Oscar statuette. Brooklyn-based Epner Technology promises that the gold won't come off.

"While @TheAcademy honors the brightest stars in Hollywood, our satellites & telescopes glimpse the brightest stars in the galaxy. Both have something in common though. Our telescopes & the #Oscars trophies are both plated with the same gold!" NASA posted a tweet during the Sunday awarding ceremonies. 

The 32-foot cooling tube of the James Webb Space Telescope is plated with gold.

Gold doesn't oxidize and tarnish. It also blocks the absorption of radiant heat, making it the best choice to maintain the reflectivity of NASA telescopes.

"Gold is useful in space, because it is good at reflecting infrared wavelengths of light, which help to detect celestial objects from very far away. Even better," says Goddard Space Flight Center physicist Jim Tuttle.

Tuttle, a cryogenic researcher, helped in the designing and electroplating of NASA telescopes using Epner's unique gold-plating technology.

Gold-Plating Technologies

For the NASA telescopes, David Epner of Epner Technology uses laser gold plating.

This method is said to be much better and sturdier than the more common method of gold coating using the physical vapor deposition technique. The PVD method produces a thin film of coating by transforming a material from condensed phase to vapor phase. This process is commonly used to produce industrial coatings.

"The process is effective but has drawbacks. For one, the gold loses some of its reflectivity. Beyond that, the gold becomes extremely delicate," Tuttle said.

Epner's propriety laser gold-plating method produces pure, hard, electrochemically deposited gold plating that combines the theoretical reflectivity and emissivity of gold with a surface that can be cleaned.

Epner has refined its laser gold-plating technology for years, and it is used in most advanced military and space programs.

NASA's Keck Observatory telescopes and the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter also have gold-plated mirrors. Laser gold plating has 99 percent reflectivity.

Oscars Gold

Each of the 13.5-inch and 8.5-pound Oscars statuettes are made from solid bronze and plated in 24-karat gold. For the past 30 years, the previous manufacturer of Oscar trophy casts the statuette in tin alloy and plated them with a gold coating that wears off.

Epner Technology started making the gold plating for the Oscars trophies since 2016.

"We guaranteed that our gold coating will never come off," says David Epner. The company even offered a lifetime guarantee to replate, for free, any Oscar that will wear off.

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