Using a form of ‘microbial alchemy’, scientists have used a special type of bacterium to turn liquid gold into more valuable 24-carat gold.
Researchers based at Michigan State University have used the microorganism Cupriavidus metallidurans to turn gold chloride (or liquid gold), a toxic chemical compound found in nature, into solid gold, according to the Daily Mail.
Cupriavidus metallidurans is a particularly hardy bacterium and one which can survive conditions which would be highly toxic for most other life forms.
For the research, as the research brief summaries, the scientists 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. The process was undertaken within a bioreactor.
The scientists have used the gold for an art exhibit, which has been called "The Great Work of the Metal Lover", which can be seen at the University and was put together by Adam Brown. 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.
“The Great Work of the Metal Lover” was selected for exhibition and received an honorable mention at the world-renowned cyber art competition, Prix Ars Electronica, in Austria. Prix Ars Electronica is an important award for creativity and pioneering spirit in the field of digital and hybrid media
Although the research is of interest with regard to the transformative properties of bacteria, the study would be cost prohibitive to reproduce the experiment on a larger scale.