Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science

Super Bacteria Create Gold 180

Posted by Soulskill
from the thar-be-gold-in-them-bacteriums dept.
SchrodingerZ writes "With the price of gold skyrocketing in today's market, Michigan State University researchers have discovered a bacterium that can withstand high toxicity levels that are necessary to create natural gold. '"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.' The bacteria is Cupriavidus metallidurans, which is conditioned to be tolerant to heavy, toxic metals and to be 25 times stronger than most bacteria. When put into gold-chloride (a natural forming toxic liquid), the bacteria reproduces and converts the liquid into a gold nugget. The complete process takes about a week to perform. This experiment is currently on tour as an art exhibit called 'The Great Work of the Metal Lover.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Super Bacteria Create Gold

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @06:54PM (#41532029)

    This bacteria refines gold compounds.

    • make 1 [meyk] Show IPA verb, made, making, noun verb (used with object) 1. to bring into existence by shaping or changing material, combining parts, etc. Speak for yourself. FYI, make does not mean summon out of thin air.
      • by binarybum (468664)

        make 1 [meyk] Show IPA verb, made, making, noun verb (used with object) 1. to bring into existence by shaping or changing material, combining parts, etc. i.e. He made that spoon from an even bigger spoon

    • by poity (465672) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @07:43PM (#41532451)

      And I don't wanna ask a scientist. Y'all mothafuckas lying, and gettin' me pissed!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by spitzak (4019)

      Car companies don't make cars. They just rearrange molecules until they are formed into a car shape.

      • by 1u3hr (530656)

        Car companies don't make cars. They just rearrange molecules until they are formed into a car shape.

        Nobody was rearranging protons and neutrons to form gold nuclei. Which is what "making gold" (or any other element) entails. They were just refining it.

      • This is more akin to mining, you're just mining in a liquid with bacteria instead of in a hole with shovels.
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      This bacteria refines gold compounds.

      Shocking - can't tell the difference between Alchemy and Chemistry. Ignorance is rampant.

    • This bacteria refines gold compounds.

      More accurately, it reduces gold. That is, it makes gold metal from gold ions.

  • Wrong section (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cfalcon (779563) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @06:55PM (#41532037)

    Shouldn't we have a Newton up there instead of the Einstein?

    This is the alchemy section right?

    • It's not alchemy. That would be creating gold from other elements. This is simple refining.

  • Misleading headline (Score:5, Informative)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @06:59PM (#41532063)

    They're not creating the element gold from another element, they're extracting it from a compound.

    • And additionally, the usefulness of this will depend on how abundant and accessible Gold-Chloride is.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @07:23PM (#41532301)

        Gold Chloride is not naturally occurring and expensive to make. If you managed to get hold of some gold chloride and decided for some reason you wanted the gold metal out of it, you could mix it with hydrogen peroxide or pretty much any reducing agent and get gold without having to wait a week. Or you could just heat it up on an ordinary stove (but don't breathe in).

        This is performance art, nothing more.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @08:38PM (#41532885)

          Gold Chloride is not naturally occurring and expensive to make. If you managed to get hold of some gold chloride and decided for some reason you wanted the gold metal out of it, you could mix it with hydrogen peroxide or pretty much any reducing agent and get gold without having to wait a week. Or you could just heat it up on an ordinary stove (but don't breathe in).

          This is performance art, nothing more.

          You are missing the point. Gold Chloride does form naturally. It is in ocean water at levels between 15-75 ppt. Are you going to boil all of the ocean water to extract the gold? Have you heard of bioremediation?

          • by c0lo (1497653)

            This is performance art, nothing more.

            You are missing the point. Gold Chloride does form naturally. It is in ocean water at levels between 15-75 ppt. Are you going to boil all of the ocean water to extract the gold? Have you heard of bioremediation?

            Don't you think that if the gold chloride (at these concentrations) in the oceans would be a "good feeding ground" for bacteria, we would find more gold deposits (similar to the manganese nodules [wikipedia.org]) on the ocean floor? Are you going to boil the ocean until the concentration of gold chloride is high eno

        • by dj245 (732906) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:49PM (#41533893) Homepage

          Gold Chloride is not naturally occurring and expensive to make. If you managed to get hold of some gold chloride and decided for some reason you wanted the gold metal out of it, you could mix it with hydrogen peroxide or pretty much any reducing agent and get gold without having to wait a week. Or you could just heat it up on an ordinary stove (but don't breathe in).

          This is performance art, nothing more.

          No. It is research, and a terrible headline.

          Gold isn't the end goal here. Bacteria that survive in heavy metal solutions are pretty rare. Bacteria that do something useful with those heavy metal solutions are even rarer. The end goal is probably to find and/or create bacteria that can treat large quantities of contaminated water. Water contaminated with other heavy metals like lead, arsenic, etc. Unleashing a heavy-metal leeching bacteria has got to be cheaper than treating a huge quantity of contaminated water. It might take a lot longer, and not be as efficient, but you better believe there is a use and a market for bacteria that can do that. This is just a step along the way.

          • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @11:15PM (#41534105)

            Didn't read the article hey? It's possible Kashefi does actual research with these bacteria, using their tolerance for heavy metals, but this ain't it. This is an example of an art professor who wandered into a research lab (maybe, Kashefi doesn't seem to know much about gold either) and created his next art project by putting bacteria to work doing something absolutely useless.

            From the article:

            "He [Kashefi] and Adam Brown, associate professor of electronic art and intermedia, found the metal-tolerant bacteria Cupriavidus metallidurans can grow on massive concentrations of gold chloride" The senior person on the project is a professor of art.

            "the bacteria are at least 25 times stronger than previously reported among scientists, the researchers determined in their art installation, "The Great Work of the Metal Lover," which uses a combination of biotechnology, art and alchemy to turn liquid gold into 24-karat gold."

            "The artwork contains...."

            ""The Great Work of the Metal Lover" uses a living system as a vehicle for artistic exploration...."

            "Using ancient gold illumination techniques, Brown applied 24-karat gold leaf to regions of the prints where a bacterial gold deposit had been identified so that each print contains some of the gold produced in the bioreactor."

            ""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.""

            ""Art has the ability to probe and question the impact of science in the world, and 'The Great Work of the Metal Lover' speaks directly to the scientific preoccupation while trying to shape and bend biology to our will within the postbiological age," Brown said."

            • by TapeCutter (624760) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @01:47AM (#41534857) Journal
              "postbiological age" - He's not just an artist, he's a bullshit artist.
            • As a scientist that has worked on a few science-art collaborations (which I think are a great way to get people interested in science) I have found it incredibly difficult to make artists understand that some words have precise, technical meanings and are not open for interpretation. Conversations quickly devolve into a Lemmon/Matthau bit.

              It can be downright infuriating; you say to the artist "ok, well, what if I called your photographs watercolors?" The artist then ponders for a second, trying to find the

              • by ceoyoyo (59147)

                Artists don't like precise, or technical, and they depend on interpretation. Actually, I found the comments by the biologist part of the group more disturbing. Yes, he's a biologist, but for someone working with bacteria and heavy metals he really should know something about chemistry.

                I'm not criticizing making art projects out of science. I've collaborated with opera singers and instrumentalists and am a photographer myself. Science is beautiful. My objection was to the OP calling this art science.

  • by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @07:03PM (#41532111)

    gold-chloride (a natural forming toxic liquid),

    Where is gold-chloride found in nature? A quick google search and all I could find were descriptions describing gold-chloride as something created in a lab.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @07:10PM (#41532165)

      Yes it's only created in a lab - and it's extremely expensive to create. But this finding will allow gold chloride makers to recoup some of their investment, and once they realize some economies of scale I'm sure they can make a profit.

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        Yes it's only created in a lab - and it's extremely expensive to create.

        That's because the alchemists who create it have to change half the original gold into chlorine so one hogshead of gold becomes one half hogshead of gold and one half hogshead of chlorine. Those then react to form AuCl. Or AuCl2. Whatever.

        This is all nonsense. The bacteria are not "bacterial alchemy", or alchemy of any kind. It's a disgrace when scientists make such ludicrous statements.

      • by khallow (566160)
        As has been already noted, there are far cheaper, faster, and more effective means for extracting gold from gold chloride than any organism can accomplish. Even just heating up gold chloride works.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Faster certainly, more effective maybe, cheaper? Much of the point of using organisms is that they are self-reproducing.

          • by khallow (566160)

            Faster certainly, more effective maybe, cheaper?

            Oh yes. You have to feed and maintain the environment for these organisms. Plus you still have to extract the gold when you harvest them. That adds considerable overhead.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They mean this, I believe.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chloroauric_acid

      Basically, you use an acid, (aqua regia) to dissolve the gold so you can harvest it from hard-to-get areas, such as microscopic electrical traces on a circuit board, and then you use this to get it back out of solution.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      to create gold-chloride, dissolve solid gold into a chlorine solution under 100 atmospheres of pressure at 10000C for a 168 hours.

      So to create gold using these bacteria it takes 100,000 joules of energy to convert 1 oz. of gold into gold-chlorine and then wait a week to get back .9 oz. of gold from the bacteria.

      Cool, where do I sign up? :)

      I think we need to get Bernie Madeoff to manage the business, he has lots of experience with this.

      • by sjames (1099)

        If the gold in question is in the form of plating or microscopic particles embedded in rock, it might just pay off.

    • Though you may not know, labs are the natural habitat of the strange creatures we know as scientists. These ecosystems are known to form in proximity to technologically advanced societies.
    • by Grayhand (2610049) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @09:02PM (#41533075)

      gold-chloride (a natural forming toxic liquid),

      Where is gold-chloride found in nature? A quick google search and all I could find were descriptions describing gold-chloride as something created in a lab.

      I think this was done as a what if experiment and has no practical use. The point though is if you can create a bacteria that will concentrate gold in either industrial or natural compounds if could be very useful. Right now mercury is the main element used in processing gold ore. Japan started extracting gold from sewage. I thought it was a silly idea until I heard how much they extracted. I'm not sure what the source of the gold is, old fillings wearing or naturally occurring but they did get a respectable amount from the sewage. Most of the world's available gold is actually suspended in seawater. The downside is it costs more to extract it than the gold is worth. Say you develop a bacteria that seeks out and absorbs gold then sinks to the bottom of the tank. You could over time end up with a coating of gold on the tank bottom. A similar process has been developed for removing radioactive elements from drinking water.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @07:05PM (#41532127)

    They seem to be able to create cash for themselves from shit.

  • They literally shit gold!
  • Interesting in itself, but if I'm understanding the TFA's properly, converting Gold from an undesirable form to something mainstream isn't "production" in the historical sense desired by the Alchemists--later learned by the physicist of the 20th century to involve altering the atomic nucleus (involving fusion or fission).

    • by Maow (620678)

      Interesting in itself, but if I'm understanding the TFA's properly, converting Gold from an undesirable form to something mainstream isn't "production" in the historical sense desired by the Alchemists--later learned by the physicist of the 20th century to involve altering the atomic nucleus (involving fusion or fission).

      Thank you - I came here to say something similar - this is not producing gold, it seems to be isolating it.

      For creating gold, a little more input energy is thought to be required:

      From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

      Like all elements with atomic numbers larger than iron, gold is thought to have been formed from a supernova nucleosynthesis process.

      • by hutsell (1228828)

        Properly exploited, they could have been used to power our planet.
        Fortunately, it failed to be true.
        Imagine -- the awesomeness of the greatly feared -- bacteria with nuclear powered butts.

  • by Tough Love (215404) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @07:11PM (#41532177)

    Not a lot said about environmental impact. Heap leaching [wikipedia.org] is a famously effective way to poison streams and destroy large tracts of forest.

    • by jd (1658)

      Existing methods of extracting gold are extremely toxic on the environment and lethal to the natives. A better solution is definitely needed, even if not this one.

      (Since the largest gold reserves are under the Amazon, the ideal would be to have metal-eating bacteria consume the reserves in-situ and be pumped back to the surface -- save the jungle and the natives, eliminate the illegal gold miners, AND bankrupt all those Limbaugh devotees who have bought into gold reserves, ALL AT THE SAME TIME! What could b

  • Seawater (Score:5, Interesting)

    by frovingslosh (582462) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @07:15PM (#41532209)
    Wouldn't it make more sense to create bacteria that can extract the gold known to exist in seawater, or some other abundant source, than to come up with this publicity grabbing but overall worthless trick?
    • by CODiNE (27417)

      They didn't bioengineer the bacteria, they found one that already exists.

    • by jmv (93421)

      And how do you extract the gold-extracting bacteria from the water?

  • Not really practical (Score:5, Informative)

    by ortholattice (175065) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @07:20PM (#41532267)
    Gold chloride [wikipedia.org] isn't exactly of "no value" - it is more expensive than the gold it contains (about $100 per gram of gold content). And bacteria aren't needed; from the wiki article it appears that simply temperature-cycling it betwen >160C and >420C a few times will remove the chlorine and leave pure gold. In short, the purpose of this project is artistic and/or political, possibly biologically interesting, but not necessarily of practical value.
  • New Slashdot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by poity (465672) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @07:49PM (#41532501)

    1. Get sold (again)
    2. Make 1 out of every 5 articles a troll
    3. Profit

    Seriously, though, Torvalds dirty mouth, Glenn Beck article, now "WE GOT ALKEMEE GOIN' ON HERE YO!"
    Wild week of trolling at Slashdot.

  • ...but I suppose blatantly lying in headlines and article blurbs gets people to read your articles.

  • I find some kind of satisfaction in seeing this sort of thing become widespread.
    In this case, it would make a "return to the gold standard" be absolutely worthless.

  • This bacteria is gold, Jerry, gold!

  • Once Again The Creationists have gotten things astoundingly wrong.

    The process of extracting the gold from gold-chloride is clearly NOT "creation" in any sense of the word.

    The ONLY "creation" going on in relation to this article is the CREATION of an obscene amount of HYPE over a somewhat interesting but otherwise irrelevant bacterium.
  • Iron (FE 2+ specifically) or hygrogen peroxide will cause the gold to precipitate out

  • by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @09:25PM (#41533289) Homepage Journal
    or perhaps we just need to fire the current squadron of editors?

    original article Here [sciencedaily.com] (NB from 2009) in which Australian scientists discover the gold-nugget-forming action of this bacteria.
  • Aaaaaaaaand there goes the gold bubbles. Bye bye paranoid investor morons that buy high. Whether this is real or not, this is the big supply side boost that kills the idiotically high gold bubble.
  • "The bacteria is Cupriavidus metallidurans, which is conditioned to be tolerant to heavy, toxic metals and to be 25 times stronger than most bacteria."

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • Not illuminating (Score:5, Informative)

    by mattr (78516) <mattr.telebody@com> on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @10:40PM (#41533829) Homepage Journal

    This is a confusing press release. From what I can gather, this bacterium, which has already been discovered decades ago and its genome fully sequenced, was found 3 years ago to reduce toxic gold compounds into metallic gold. The MSU team fed higher concentration gold solution and this created spherical metallic gold "nuggets" around 30 microns up to 1.2 mm in size. The art exhibition which is pretty distracting from the original scientific research, of which it appears there was some, plays on the themes of alchemy and illuminated manuscripts.

    Unfortunately the explanation of the cool scientific part is completely overshadowed and twisted by the art exhibition! That is really annoying. Art exhibitions made by or in collaboration with scientists are often interesting but this announcement of research and an art exhibition at the same time means that factually incorrect words are helplessly mixed in with fact, making everything cloudy. It may seem romantic but it really is a bad idea to do that. In fact the only place alchemy really happens that we know of is in a nuclear reaction, which this is not.

    ScienceDaily (Oct. 9, 2009) — Australian scientists have found that the bacterium Cupriavidus metallidurans catalyses the biomineralisation of gold by transforming toxic gold compounds to their metallic form using active cellular mechanism.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091007103034.htm [sciencedaily.com]

    The bacterium Cupriavidus metallidurans strain CH34, originally isolated by us in 1976 from a metal processing factory, is considered a major model organism in this field because it withstands milli-molar range concentrations of over 20 different heavy metal ions. This tolerance is mostly achieved by rapid ion efflux but also by metal-complexation and -reduction.
    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi/10.1371/journal.pone.0010433 [plosone.org]

  • I think we all realize bacteria isn't fusing new elements. I recall a middle school teacher telling us there was a fortune in dissolved gold in seawater, just no economically-feasible way to extract it.

  • PEDANTIC [reference.com]

    Reality check here. Does it really matter whether the word "make" is used exactly right? Scientists engineered a bacteria that can survive in an unbelievably hostile environment that can make lumps of 24K gold from a solution of gold chloride. This is freaking amazing.
  • can also ignite nuclear reactions!
    To create gold, to really CREATE gold, we need to either split heavier atoms in gold + bybroducts or to "melt" lighter atoms in heavier ones.
    I fear we've been doing research in the wrong directions!
    Or may be those bacteria can concentrate gold because of their metabolism ...

  • This could mutate to become highly infective. Immune carriers will be known as having the "Midas Syndrome".
  • That's impressive.

    In other news, my body creates carbon dioxide and water out of oxygen and carbohydrates.

  • Gold from gold chloride is truly not interesting. Gold from seawater -- that would be interesting. Gold from seawater at macroscopic rates with no external energy input in unattended apparatus, that would be very interesting. Sadly, this is not that.

    rgb

Reference the NULL within NULL, it is the gateway to all wizardry.

Working...