Bacteria Produces Pure Gold

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The secret to making pure gold has been discovered – as part of an art project.

Researchers at Michigan State University have perhaps discovered the secret of alchemy. They proved that a bacteria called Cupriavidus metallidurans gobbles up a toxic liquid chemical called gold chloride and spits out 24k gold in metallic form a week later.

In 2009, Australian scientists conducted similar research that may have led to this experiment, which was part science and part art exhibit:

In fact, the bacteria are at least 25 times stronger than previously reported among scientists, the researchers determined in their art installation, “The Great Work of the Metal Lover,” which uses a combination of biotechnology, art and alchemy to turn liquid gold into 24-karat gold. The artwork contains a portable laboratory made of 24-karat gold-plated hardware, a glass bioreactor and the bacteria, a combination that produces gold in front of an audience.

“This is neo-alchemy. Every part, every detail of the project is a cross between modern microbiology and alchemy,” [researcher Adam] Brown said. “Science tries to explain the phenomenological world. As an artist, I’m trying to create a phenomenon. Art has the ability to push scientific inquiry.”

According to Brown, it wouldn’t be profitable to mass produce gold this way – so this probably isn’t the world-changing discovery the word “alchemy” would suggest. But it’s still pretty cool, like the fact that you can buy gold from a vending machine.

Stacy Johnson

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