Bling! Researchers create 24k gold in the lab

There's gold in them thar chlorides! Researchers at Michigan State University figure out how to transmute a toxic chemical compound into solid gold.

A close-up of gold flecks, created by science! (Click to enlarge.) G.L. Kohuth

To put it lightly, something sensational happens upon feeding large concentrations of toxic gold chloride (also known as liquid gold) to the bacteria Cupriavidus metallidurans. After about a week's time, the bacterium creates a 24-karat gold nugget from the digested toxins.

"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, where the research is taking place.

Gold formulating in the bioreactor. G.L. Kohuth

Don't get too excited, though, as the inventors describe the process as cost-prohibitive on a larger scale. Nonetheless, successfully creating gold in this way does raise questions about potential economic impact, as well as ethical queries regarding reverse-engineering natural processes.

Kashefi collaborated with associate professor Adam Brown on the project, officially known as "The Great Work of the Metal Lover." A portable laboratory made of 24-karat gold-plated hardware, a glass bioreactor, and the Trumpian bacteria stands on display at the Prix Ars Electronica cyber art competition in Austria until October 7.

"This is neo-alchemy. Every part, every detail of the project is a cross between modern microbiology and alchemy," 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."

This bioreactor, part of an art exhibit, uses a gold-fiending bacteria and gold chloride to create real 24-karat gold. G.L. Kohuth
About the author

Crave contributor Christopher MacManus regularly spends his time exploring the latest in science, gaming, and geek culture -- aiming to provide a fun and informative look at some of the most marvelous subjects from around the world.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Show Comments Hide Comments
Latest Galleries from CNET
Uber's tumultuous ups and downs in 2014 (pictures)
The best and worst quotes of 2014 (pictures)
A roomy range from LG (pictures)
This plain GE range has all of the essentials (pictures)
Sony's 'Interview' heard 'round the world (pictures)
Google Lunar XPrize: Testing Astrobotic's rover on the rocks (pictures)