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.
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.
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."