(DailyMail.co.uk) It was the alchemical quest that was midwife to the birth of modern science: how to transform common elements into precious gold.
Now researchers have found a bacterium that could fit the bill as a modern day philosophers’ stone, by turning a toxic chemical compound found in nature into solid, 24-carat gold.
A team from Michigan State University discovered that the metal-tolerant bacteria Cupriavidus metallidurans can grow on massive concentrations of gold chloride, which is deadly to other creatures.
They found that the tiny bugs can transform the toxic substance to produce gold nuggets.
‘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.
He and Adam Brown, associate professor of electronic art and intermedia, found that Cupriavidus metallidurans can grow on massive concentrations of gold chloride – a toxic chemical compound found in nature that is often known as liquid gold.
In fact, the professors discovered, the bacteria are at least 25 times stronger than previously reported among scientists.
The pair made their findings with a novel art installation dubbed The Great Work of the Metal Lover, which uses a combination of biotechnology, art and alchemy to turn liquid gold into 24-carat gold.