A bacteria that turns toxin into gold

WASHINGTON (TIP): Scientists have discovered a bacteria that has the ability to withstand incredible amounts of toxicity and can be the key to creating 24-carat gold. Researchers from the Michigan State University have found that the metal-tolerant bacteria ‘Cupriavidus metallidurans’ can grow on massive concentrations of gold chloride or liquid gold, a toxic chemical compound found in nature. The researchers fed the bacteria unprecedented amounts of gold chloride, mimicking the process they believe happens in nature. In about a week, the bacteria transformed the toxins and produced a gold nugget. “Microbial alchemy is what we’re doing — transforming gold from something that has no value into a solid, precious metal that’s valuable ,” said Kazem Kashefi, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics in a statement. In their art installation, “The Great Work of the Metal Lover”, researchers used a combination of biotechnology, art and alchemy to turn liquid gold into 24-carat gold. The artwork contained a portable laboratory made of 24-carat goldplated hardware, a glass bioreactor and the bacteria, a combination that produces gold.

The work has been put on display at the cyber art competition, Prix Ars Electronica, in Austria. Don’t get up hopes that the procedure could make gold mines out of toxic waste dumps, though. The process would be costprohibitive on a larger scale, said Adam Brown, associate professor of electronic art and intermedia at MSU. However, Brown added, the experiment’s success does raise questions about greed, the economy, environmental impacts and ethics as related to science and the engineering of nature.

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