Micro Gold Diggers Are A Good Thing
ADELAIDE RESEARCH UNCOVERS DIRT-EATING BUGS THAT MAKE GOLD
In the past in order to get gold out of dirt we had to use a combination of physical and chemical techniques to extract it. Well, strictly speaking in the distant past you could just pick it up – that was the Gold Rush
But what scientists hadn’t previously thought of doing was using biology – in this case living bacteria.
Bacteria are alive like us but just super tiny, so small they can only be seen with a microscope. So prominent are these bacteria, that our own tummy systems have trillions of these little bugs. What’s more is that many of them are actually for us and not against us, at least whilst they work in balance.
Now, researchers at the University of Adelaide have reported in the journal Chemical Geology, that they’ve uncovered a special “nugget-producing” bacteria that dissolves and re-concentrates gold which greatly reduces the time taken in the extraction process.
“In the natural environment, primary gold makes its way into soils, sediments and waterways through biogeochemical weathering and eventually ends up in the ocean. On the way bacteria can dissolve and re-concentrate gold – this process removes most of the silver and forms gold nuggets.” says Dr Frank Reith, Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences, and Visiting Fellow at CSIRO Land and Water at Waite.
“These results have surprised us, and lead the way for many interesting applications such as optimising the processes for gold extraction from ore and re-processing old tailings or recycled electronics, which isn’t currently economically viable.”
Gold is used in everything from Government banks to hedge against paper money losing value, for its indestructible properties in electronics and even medical technology. And no, Eau de Parfum Gold by Kim Kardashian does not actually contain gold – though at high enough temperatures, gold can actually become a gas.
Regardless, it’d be nice to get a few of these dirt-eating bugs. Perhaps in the future these bugs could also do my dishes and laundry?
07/06/2017 / Kit Densley