I have my eyes on this new Porsche but all I have is an unlimited supply of ice and a molecular distillery. How can I convert this ice into gold?

The molecular distillery can disassemble and reassemble the molecules in any item but cannot add new molecules from nowhere not existing in whatever you put into it. For example, if you put in only Helium you cannot get out Platinum.

To clarify, if you put in multiple items/elements then you can get out any combination of whatever you put in.

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    $\begingroup$ You can sell your ice in a warm country and buy gold. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Jan 18, 2019 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander Nice answer ;) $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2019 at 22:31
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    $\begingroup$ So the distillery can disassemble water molecules (into hydrogen and oxygen) but can't produce gold unless you put gold into it. Therefore the answer is to put gold into it and then extract the gold molecules. This sounds like a very expensive way to achieve nothing! $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2019 at 22:34
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    $\begingroup$ Make a patent of your molecular distillery. You'd be rich in no-time. $\endgroup$
    – Basher
    Jan 18, 2019 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ No worry: thanks to the gravitational pull of your unlimited supply of ice it is the gold itself (and the Porsche) that is coming to you. $\endgroup$
    – NofP
    Jan 19, 2019 at 0:36

8 Answers 8


Well, you've explicitly stated "For example, if you put in only Helium you cannot get out Platinum." By the same token, therefore, you cannot only put in hydrogen and oxygen (ice) and get out gold.

Therefore, let's get creative. Depending on how the machine works (whether it obeys the conservation of energy, for instance, or has a source of energy otherwise inaccessible to you, and whether it can rearrange atoms, or merely molecules), you could:

  1. Arrange the hydrogen and oxygen atoms into stable sturdy solids with convenient handwavy properties (asserted for narrative purposes to exist), arranged in a manner forming an atomic distillery capable of converting ice to gold. (Depends on the machine producing structures, and not just substances. Also depends on having plans for an atomic distillery.)
  2. Convert the ice to hydrogen and oxygen, burn it for energy (forming water again), and sell the energy. (Depends on needing no energy; violates law of conservation of energy.)
  3. Convert CO2 from the air into solid carbon and gaseous oxygen (or bind the oxygen to st else). Sell the service as an anti-global-warming approach. (Requires the ability to process massive amounts of gas, or really shady and tricky marketing.)
  4. Find an expensive compound made of cheap materials and sell that. (Assumes few people have one of these machines.)
  5. Rent out the machine for INSANE amounts of money. (Assumes modern-day world.)

Just some ideas.

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    $\begingroup$ Point #1 raises the question: Can a 3D printer print another 3D printer? $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2019 at 23:52
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    $\begingroup$ @PeregrineRook yes. They can print the parts, which are then assembled. $\endgroup$
    – NofP
    Jan 19, 2019 at 0:19
  • $\begingroup$ @NofP but can a 3D printer print a (smaller) 3D printer with no assembly required? $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2019 at 7:07
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    $\begingroup$ @John Dvorak - It doesn't have to be smaller. The printers could be foldable. The new one is printed in its compact, folded state then it just has to be unfolded or maybe it unfolds itself when plugged in. $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2019 at 9:15
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    $\begingroup$ Evil version of #3: #6. Threaten to blanket the world in a choking cloud of CO2 unless they send you all of their gold. $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2019 at 23:21

Molecules are formed by atoms. Each atom is of a type (element).

Gold is an element.

Water is formed by the elements hydrogen and oxygen.

You cannot combine oxygen and hydrogen in molecules to create gold.

To create gold atoms from oxygen and/or hydrogen atoms you need to "change" the atoms to a different element, and that requires nuclear reactions.

  • $\begingroup$ So your suggestion is that I need an Atomic Distillery? Is there some way however to get some atoms in the molecules to lose/gain electrons by interacting with other atoms in the molecules to transmute the elements so that it can be done in a Molecular Distillery? $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2019 at 23:32
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    $\begingroup$ Nuclear reactions means that the changes happen in the nucleus of the atom. This is what defines the element to which the atom belongs (more concisely, the number of protons -the atomic number-). Atoms can lose or win electrons yet, if the nucleus does not change, they remain of the same element, the only difference is that they end electrically charged and they are called ions. All that is chemistry (including molecules) is governed by the external layers of electrons, not by the nucleus. You do need an Atomic Distillery. $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Jan 19, 2019 at 23:53
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    $\begingroup$ @user2966384 I think you need to bone up on the basic physics of molecules and atoms a bit. Your question suggests confusion on this point, and it feels like an answer would need to lay out a bunch of science basics you can get anywhere. That's not what answers should do. $\endgroup$ Jan 20, 2019 at 1:23

According to the National Ocean Service, our oceans hold some 20 million pounds of gold, suspended in normal seawater. But this gold is spread throughout the normal mineral content of seawater to the tune of “parts per trillion.” As the NOAA puts it, “Each liter of seawater contains, on average, about 13 billionths of a gram of gold.”.

So all you need to do is spend a few years filtering the rim of the south pole. It will take about 20 billion liters of seawater to get enojgh gold to craft a ring. It will cost millions in electricity as well.

You can get gold much faster by getting a job.

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    $\begingroup$ This will not work. You have to start with ice, not ocean water. The unlimited supply of ice presumably comes from icebergs but icebergs are made from fresh water from glaciers so they won't contain any gold. nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/iceberg $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2019 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK fine. But some of the ice st the rim of the douth pole is congealed seawater. $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2019 at 23:02
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    $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK - Sorry, but the answer did not specify icebergs. Sea ice is formed by freezing sea water. With that said, it's still a really bad idea. As ice forms the crystallization tends to exclude anything but water. The same effect can be used as a low-temperature distillation process for stuff like apple-jack. Hard cider which freezes has pockets of high-proof stuff. You crush the ice and discard it, leaving the good stuff behind. In this case, new sea ice contains pockets of brine, so it can be used, but old sea ice is essentially fresh, as the brine pockets eventually drain. $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2019 at 0:18
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    $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK I would actually expect glacial ice to have more gold in it, as a result of scraping the surface under it any any gold deposits. Similar to how one can pay for gold on a river. $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2019 at 13:22

You use the Dwarven Press process (TM). Now, while that is exclusively to turn lead to gold, the theory is the same.

Go to the busiest municipalities, and offer to deal with their trash for a nominal figure, much lower than any other competitor. They fall over themselves to give you the deal and claim that they've saved millions in the budget.
You set up your distillery at some point close to your clients to minimise transport costs. Make sure your zoning permits etc. are all compliant. Possibly set up multiple distilleries, if you have the technology, to avoid bureaucratic tangles, e.g., checks at international borders.

Convert the trash into something useful, e.g., fertiliser, metal ingots, plastic pellets. Sell at a profit. Buy DeBeers. Start producing and selling diamonds.

Buy your Porsche, or gold, as preferred.

  • $\begingroup$ How about buy DeBeers and develop a better process for making synthetic diamonds. If the question had been "I have an unlimited amount of coal (or even wood) how do I make diamonds?" it would have attracted a lot more feasible answers $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2019 at 10:35
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    $\begingroup$ @LevelRiverSt: He has a molecular distillery--he doesn't need a better process. The whole point of buying deBeers is to stop them sabotaging his market $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Jan 19, 2019 at 10:46
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    $\begingroup$ @LevelRiverSt The reason that diamonds are expensive is not because they are rare, or hard to create synthetically. It's because, until 2004, De Beers artificially restricted supply through their global monopoly, and pushed through restrictions and legislation to try and make it illegal to source diamonds elsewhere. Ironically, the controls they put in place to restrict things like blood diamonds / conflict diamonds backfired when several countries put De Beers on a blacklist due to the South African apartheid (De Beers being a South African company) $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2019 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal Thank you, I would have said the same and I am glad others are spreading this truth about the fraud of diamonds and the DeBeers mafia. $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2019 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ There probably will be electronics containing gold in the trash, so it's a win-win-win :) $\endgroup$
    – Fels
    Jan 25, 2019 at 13:31

Don't make gold, make something super-expensive from something relatively cheap. Ice doesn't give you much but if you can capture come carbon dioxide (CO$_2$) you can extract separate coal and oxygen. Release oxygen and change coal into either diamonds or graphene. similarly use some sand to produce silicone. In all cases a large amount of extreme purity is what builds for the price.

Other option is to use your machine for creating complicated shapes. If you can shape titanium, sell this possibility as a service and you'll earn for your Porsche in no time!


Forget about the ice. Give it a few grams of organic matter. Wood. Cheese. Refuse. Whatever. You only need a few grams containing some carbon atoms and trace metals.

With those few grams of organic matter, you produce some Endohedral Fullerenes, and sell them. According to this webpage, Endohedral Fullerenes are worth about 160 million dollars per gram. That's a much stiffer price tag than even diamonds, which can only be sold at about 100 thousand dollars per gram.

Of course, if you fail to find someone willing to buy your Endohedral Fullerenes, you can always fall back to selling some diamonds.

Once you have the money, just buy the gold you want...


Upgrade your distillery!

  1. Instead of being a molecular distillery, upgrade it to a subatomic particle distillery.
  2. It would then take about 11 molecules of water to reorganize into one atom of gold.
  3. There'd be some waste products, but we won't worry about those.

Create a machine that is capable of generating unlimited energy from nothing. Then create an AI that will use this energy to create a virtual world that is impossible to distinguish from our world.

Your AI will create inside its own world: another AI that will create another world impossible to distinguish from our world, and again and again and again.

Find a way to make your AI wanting to be in the world of the AI that created a virtual world that created it. Then find a way to make yourself able to make an AI that created another AI through a virtual world wanting to make the AI it created be part of it's own world only if you decide it to happend.

Show to the AI that created the world that created you (don't forget that you created an AI that created a world that created an AI that might have somehow created a world just like the world that created an AI that created a world that created that very AI), that you will decide that any AI created by a world created by an Ai that could be created by a world created by an AI you could have created will be granted to be part of the world of the AI that created the world that created that AI if it do turn your ice into gold even if it's impossible using physic laws.

If you did all those steps perfectly, it might work, and let you turn ice into gold using a molecular distillery.

  • $\begingroup$ That's magic not scientific, since science says that matter (or energy) cannot be created or destroyed. You cannot create energy from nothing. $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2019 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ If there is matter or energy somewhere, it means that matter or energy can be created (or it means it can happend to be there without being created?). Just create it or make it happend to be somewhere then make it happend to be there. $\endgroup$
    – holeo hlw
    Jan 19, 2019 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ @holeo_hlw ... huh? ... $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2019 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ p.s. I did not downvote this and appreciate the effort. Someone else downvoted. They probably downvoted because it does not make much sense. What is an "IA" btw? $\endgroup$ Jan 20, 2019 at 0:01
  • $\begingroup$ Step one: Create a machine that is capable of generating unlimited energy. +1. That lets you either turn lead into gold economically, or straight up just make matter. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Jan 20, 2019 at 3:11

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