Researchers have discovered bacteria with a Midas touch, capable of transforming toxic chemicals into pure 24-karat gold.


Fri, Nov 02 2012 at 5:36 AM

Money may still not grow on trees, but scientists from Michigan State University have discovered the next closest thing: bacteria that can transform toxic chemicals into pure, 24-karat gold, .

The bacterium with the Midas touch, Cupriavidus metallidurans, was coaxed into producing real gold nuggets simply by exposing it to copious amounts of gold chloride, a toxic liquid substance with no actual value but which is found naturally in the environment. The bacterium gobbles up the gold chloride, ingesting all of the liquid’s toxins and waste, and leaves behind only solid gold. It just goes to show that one bacterium’s waste is another organism’s treasure.
“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 at Michigan State University.
Kashefi, along with associate professor of electronic art and intermedia Adam Brown, conceived of the method. Rather than get rich, the two professors are instead using their gold-producing bacteria as part of an art exhibit titled, “The Great Work of the Metal Lover.” The exhibit makes use of the researchers’ odd visionary combination of biotechnology, art and alchemy to produce gold in front of an audience. The work received an honorable mention at the Prix Ars Electronica cyber art convention. (There was no evidence of the researchers paying off the judges with gold nuggets.)