Posted by Renee Schmidt

Scientists have discovered gold producing bacteria. Cupriavidus Metallidurans, a bacterial microbe, takes in toxins and produces 24 karat gold crystals in return.

When I hear the word bacteria, I automatically think of hygiene and health. Stereotypical? Perhaps. But not all bad; Bacteria has given great service to humanity over the centuries. It has intrigued the scientific community many a times with its varied forms of existence. One such enthralling bacterial activity is achieved by the Cupriavidus Metallidurans, a recently discovered gold producing bacteria, reported to produce 99% pure 24-karat gold!

Jabir Bin Hayan, an Arab chemist, who thought gold could be prepared by chemical reaction of different metals, spent most of his life experimenting to see if he could create gold. During his quest, he went on to do wonderful things for chemistry. However, he never found a way to manufacture gold. Subsequent chemists kept searching for the right chemical equation to form gold, but it never happened.

The quest for gold didn’t end with chemists and biologist. With gold being the most precious metal on our planet, it continues to inspire scientists even today. However, scientists can look to a new way to produce gold! They have recently discovered gold producing bacteria.

Associate Professor Adam Brown and Assistant Professor Kazem Kashefi, both working at the Michigan State University, can be credited for this discovery. While Kashefi belongs to the science of microbiology and molecular genetics, Brown specializes in electronic art and intermedia. Kashefi ingeniously gives the analogy of “microbial alchemy” when he describes this milestone in microbial technology.

The scientists, who achieved these results in a compact but scientifically advanced factory, liken the process to creating a work of art, naming it “The Great Work of The Metal Lover”. That’s because this particular microbe has the astonishing ability to persevere in severe toxicity and thus it thrives on a toxic and apparently insignificant compound, the gold chloride. It uses this very gold chloride to produce gold in its pure form – the illustrious and eminent 24-karat variety.

But although it looks like world has hit its biological goldmine, it may not be the case. The toxic material used by the gold producing bacteria cost money and the overall cost to produce gold via bacteria may just go beyond the actual cost of the gold the bacteria can produce. Unfortunately this this little amalgam of technology and art can’t satiate a large-scale audience, however, I am pretty sure it will find its market niche.