The men gave the bacteria gold chloride, which is a toxic chemical compound, and found not only do the microbes thrive on it, but they can produce gold
(Liz Klimas) A team at Michigan State University has landed on a gold mine — albeit on the micro scale.
They call it “microbial alchemy.” Using the extremophile bacteria Cupriavidus metallidurans — a microbe that can grow in harsh, metallic environments – Kazem Kashefi, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, and Adam Brown, associate professor of electronic art and intermedia, have found that it can produce 24-carat, nearly 99.9 percent, pure gold.
In a statement about the findings from the university, Kashefi said they are literally “transforming gold from something that has no value into a solid, precious metal that’s valuable.”
The men gave the bacteria “unprecedented amounts” of gold chloride, which is a toxic chemical compound, and found not only do the microbes thrive on it, but they can produce gold in a relatively quick manner.
In fact, the team created an art installation — The Great Work of the Metal Lover — that includes a portable laboratory (made of course from gold-plated hardware) that can make the gold in front of audiences.
“This is neo-alchemy. Every part, every detail of the project is a cross between modern microbiology and alchemy,” Brown said in a statement. “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.”
Unfortunately, the gold-producing bacteria is not going to solve economic crisis or make the men rich. Only producing a gold nugget in a week, bringing operations to a larger-scale production is not cost-effective. The university news release also states that the researchers have questions about the ethics of their findings as it relates to “greed, economy and environmental impact.”
Read more: The Blaze