A newly discovered biochemical technique could aid in the recovery of the precious metal from mine waste
Gold prospectors may one day use Petri dishes to help with their quests. A species of bacterium forms nanoscale gold nuggets to help it to grow in toxic solutions of the precious metal, reports a paper published online today in Nature Chemical Biology.
The molecule with which the bacteria create the particles could one day be used to collect gold from mine waste, says Frank Reith, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia, who works on gold-processing bacteria but was not involved in the latest study.
Reith found some of the first convincing evidence that bacteria thrive on gold particles about ten years ago. At multiple sites, thousands of kilometers apart, he and his team found the bacterium Cupriavidus metallidurans living in biofilms on gold nuggets. The bacteria detoxify dissolved gold by accumulating it in inert nanoparticles inside their cells; Reith and his colleagues have spent the past decade working out how, but have not yet published their complete conclusions.
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