Friday, October 5, 2012

Researchers Unearth Bacterium that Produces Pure Gold

Gold is now being sold at one of its highest rates in years. Wouldn't it be nice if you could figure out a way to make your own gold? Two professors at Michigan State University may have beaten you to it. They have discovered a way to use bacteria to make 99.9% pure gold.

Kazem Kashefi, an assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, and Adam Brown, an associate professor of electronic art and intermedia, created a compact laboratory to conduct their experiment. Brown and Kashefi made the gold by combining the bacterium, Cupriavidus metallidurans, and gold chloride. Gold chloride has no real value and is a toxic chemical liquid found in nature. Once it's added to the bacteria, the bacteria ingest all of the liquid's toxins and waste. Then, over the course of a week, the toxic substance becomes a solid 24-karat gold nugget. There's no word yet on the actual value of the gold that's created in the lab. The researchers believe the magic they created in their compact factory happens in nature all the time without human interference.

Kashefi calls the process they use to create the gold "microbial alchemy" and says that it is "transforming gold from something that has no value into a solid, precious metal that's valuable." The compact factory that the scientific duo used to create the gold is more like an art installation, so much so that they named it "The Great Work of the Metal Lover." The work received honorable mention at the cyber art convention, Prix Ars Electronica, and is on exhibit until October 7.

Unfortunately, do not expect Brown and Kashefi's work to translate into golden nuggets for you. The researchers have said their experiment is not cost-effective enough to repeat on a large scale.

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