Microbial alchemy: Bacteria eats toxins and poops out gold

Researchers Discover Bacteria That Produces Pure Gold

The gold [...] was not found in a river or a mine. It was produced by a bacteria that, according to researchers at Michigan State University, can survive in extreme toxic environments and create 24-karat gold nuggets. Pure gold.

Maybe this critter can save us all from the global economic crisis?

Of course not—but at least it can make Kazem Kashefi—assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics—and Adam Brown—associate professor of electronic art and intermedia—a bit rich, if only for the show they have put together.

Kashefi and Brown are the ones who have created this compact laboratory that uses the bacteria Cupriavidus metallidurans to turn gold chlroride—a toxic chemical liquid you can find in nature—into 99.9% pure gold.

Accoding to Kashefi, they are doing “microbial alchemy” by “something that has no value into a solid [in fact, it the toxic material they use does cost money. Less than gold, but still plenty], precious metal that’s valuable.”

Here is the news release from the Michigan State Univ.:Superman-strength bacteria produces gold.

It would be cost prohibitive to reproduce their experiment on a larger scale, he said. But the researchers’ success in creating gold raises questions about greed, economy and environmental impact, focusing on the ethics related to science and the engineering of nature.

Tip is from Ray Gorman who says “Eureka!!! GOLD!!!! Look for “Gold Making Kits” to be “AS SEEN ON TV” pretty quick.”

No, don’t get excited. This process only makes tiny flecks of gold.

Haha. I wonder… As explained, it’s not economical even at the current price of gold and the toxic material they use won’t be fit for the kitchen experimenter. But it is cool. I can’t seem to find the actual amount of gold produced by this technique but it’s super small.

  10 comments for “Microbial alchemy: Bacteria eats toxins and poops out gold

  1. RayG
    October 4, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    awesome- getting my tip published… AND on my B’day!

    • One Eyed Jack
      October 4, 2012 at 4:34 PM

      Happy B-day from another Libra.

  2. One Eyed Jack
    October 4, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    This is not alchemy.

    One element is not being converted into another element. This is an extraction. Soluble gold is being removed from solution. The use of the word “alchemy” is sensational and misleading.

    A couple electrodes will recover that gold faster and cheaper.

    The work with the bacteria is interesting. It’s a shame that it gets overshadowed by sensationalism.

  3. oldebabe
    October 4, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    Well, as usual, the title misleads. I am not an expert, but I definitely doubt that any bacteria eats toxins and turns them into gold.

    Reading the fine print (from MIch. State U), one finds that it says that it takes a particular bacteria, and a particular type, and quantity of gold amalgam (chloride?), and then the bacteria can (apparently) convert the `toxin’ part into an extremely minute amount of pure ore. Fun for students in a university lab, perhaps, but pointless, and obviously, impractical for industry.

    Here come the scams, tho….

  4. Old Rockin' Dave
    October 4, 2012 at 7:43 PM

    I wonder, can it clean up the wastewater pits left at abandoned gold mines? It might pay for itself that way.

  5. Alan Murray
    October 4, 2012 at 8:01 PM

    To old Rockin’Dave, Well this particular Microbe may not, but there are plenty of examples of Microbes eating oil that has contaminated pristine environments and turning said oil into non toxic material[s] Not a too far a stretch to perhaps seeing this little Beastie doing something along those lines. As you suggest,cleaning up disused mining operations.

  6. October 5, 2012 at 12:09 AM

    Nice story. I’m always looking to add to the myth of gold. I love the idea that you can do it…but… It cost more than its worth.

  7. Massachusetts
    October 5, 2012 at 7:18 AM

    I believe gold can also be created through nuclear fission, but it’s cost prohibitive as well. In that case, gold is actually being created from another element, therefore it is actually alchemy, by definition. I read this years ago as a kid in a science book, but can’t remember the source. It seems fissionable…I mean feasible.

  8. Joni
    October 5, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    Very interesting brain food at:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synthesis_of_precious_metals
    Looks like the conversion of mercury to gold does happen but the gold may end up being radioactive depending on the isotope.

  9. Massachusetts
    October 5, 2012 at 8:07 PM

    Does that explain the warm glow people feel wearing gold jewelry? :)

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