Sunday, December 2, 2012

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.

A close-up of gold flecks, created by science! (Click to enlarge.)
(Credit: G.L. Kohuth)
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.

Gold formulating in the bioreactor.
(Credit: G.L. Kohuth)
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."

This bioreactor, part of an art exhibit, uses a gold-fiending bacteria and gold chloride to create real 24-karat gold.
(Credit: G.L. Kohuth)

Scientists find economic process for creating gold from base metals

By Ben Dover
San Francisco Comical
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
LIVERMORE, California -- Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have discovered a process for inexpensively converting base metals into gold, the lab announced Tuesday night at a hastily called news conference.
Since medieval times the dream of alchemists has been to make gold, the exemplar of the precious metals, out of lead, the basest of the base metals. Heretofore this has been possible only through the use of particle accelerators and other devices of nuclear mechanics to remove three protons from each lead atom, a process requiring so much energy that it was far more costly than any gold that could be produced.
But Lab Director Stew Pidasso said Tuesday night the lab's scientists have produced economic quantities of the precious metal in a different way.
"The alchemists and the early nuclear scientists failed to realize that there's more than one way to skin a proton," Pidasso said. "Instead of trying to knock protons out of lead, protons can be borrowed from metals with lower atomic numbers and added to make gold."
Pidasso said the lab, a division of the U.S. Department of Energy, first achieved the transformation by borrowing protons from copper and nickel and adding them to bars of iron. But when copper and nickel supplies ran out, the lab began using protons from calcium, which is abundant in seashells along the nearby California coastline.
According to Pidasso, using proton borrowing and high-quality varnishes, the lab will be able to manufacture about 1,500 metric tonnes of gold per year, which, he predicted, might indefinitely fill what is estimated to be the gap between annual world gold demand and mine and scrap supply.
Pidasso said the laboratory's gold research long has been funded by grants from JPMorganChase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. but that recently "enormous" help had been provided by Bear Stearns Cos.
The lab's announcement was expected to plunge the precious metals markets into chaos. A spokesman for the World Gold Council in London, reached late in the evening on his cell phone at a local club, would say only, "Young women in slinky outfits will look good in gold no matter how much of the stuff is available or where it comes from. Those details hardly matter to us."
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Gold Finally Made in Laboratory - costs more than the gold

Laboratory Gold ~ Man has created gold from bismuth at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California ~ a feat only dreamed of by alchemists of the Middle Ages. But it wasn't alchemy that did it. It took the BEVALAC atomic particle accelerator. The machine hurled ions of carbon and neon at the bismuth. This "knocked away fragments of the bismuth atoms, leaving the lighter element gold," reports Science 80 magazine. Will this prompt a modern-day gold rush? Probably not. It took $10,000 (US) in accelerator operating expenses to make about a million atoms of gold. "In all our work," said the scientist operating the machine, "we produced gold that was worth less than one billionth of a cent."

$10,000.00 = 1/1,000,000,000th (one billionth) of a cent in gold 

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