C-metallidurans produce gold nuggets from heavy metals

C. metallidurans in high metallic concentration extracts the useful elements from compounds, deposit the toxic bits and fascinating side effect in the whole process is, it excreates pure Gold which coalesces into nuggets! 


 C-metallidurans potential in metal purification


No other life form on earth had these many roles as of a bacteria. Amongst their many benefits to humans, it seems some of these microbes are also experts at purifying Gold.

Gold is no doubt the most beautiful and precious element. Gold is fantasy since it has managed to retain its value since the beginning of humanity. Gold is precious! Though it’s not a rare metal but is costly mainly because its extraction principles on a large scale are difficult. Gold has a precious characteristic of not getting corroded easily. It is easy to work with as it can be stretched and beaten to the desired length and thickness, hence making it suitable for designing lavish jewellery.

A new approach through C. metallidurans

Since the extraction of gold involves in dealing with heavy metals, a high concentration of it becomes toxic for most living creatures. Scientists are targetting on research where we can adopt a more cleaner efficient way. Researchers from an international team have found bacterium namely C. metallidurans which is resistant to heavy metals, and further research in this field could revolutionize how we extract precious metals. Usually, the organism finds it difficult to thrive in a high concentration of copper and gold because of high toxicity which possesses a threat to life. However, C. metalliduran can withstand high concentration like a pro.

C. metallidurans in high metallic concentration extracts the useful elements from compounds, deposit the toxic bits and fascinating side effect in the whole process is, it excreates pure Gold which coalesces into nuggets!

The value tag on gold mainly depends on the cost of its production which is through extracting from the ground and subsequently purifying it. The current method of Gold extraction is from its ore, where it is mixed with mercury metal. Here Mercury adheres with gold in the ore to form an amalgam. (Amalgam is a combination of two or more metals). Then as a bond gold amalgam is removed from the ore. Later on, the bond of gold-amalgam is heated to drive off the mercury and hence Pure gold remains.

Let us know more about C. metallidurans 


C. metallidurans is a rod-shaped bacteria and survives even in soil enriched with heavy metals. Later, minerals break down in the soil and release toxic heavy metals and hydrogen in the environment. If the soil lacks heavy metals then survival chances are not that bad. And if an organism desires to survive in soil containing heavy metal then it should find its pathway to shield from toxicity.

Initially, it was discovered by Professor Dietrich H. Nies, a microbiologist at MLU, along with his Australian counterpart, Professor Frank Reith from the University of Adelaida in 2009. They proved that C. metallidurans was able to deposit gold biologically, but the actual process remained a mystery.

How the experiment is carried out?

The process is initiated using copper and imitated by gold but the difference is copper is considered to be a vital element for C. metallidurans. Copper is not easily absorbed and processed by the bacteria and high concentration of copper becomes very toxic and hence the bacteria switches to chemical processes which are meant to soften the copper and convert it to suitable form which can easily be gobbled up. The bacteria use an enzyme CupA which ensures too much copper is not withheld in the membranes and drained out.

This molecule helps the bacteria to convert gold and copper compounds into molecules which are less easily absorbed by the cell membranes, which ultimately ensures fewer molecules enters the cellular membranes.

With the help of this process along with the removal of unwanted copper, it also leads to deposition of gold nugget nanoparticles on the surface of bacteria!! How cool is that!

Future prospects of the discovery

Undoubtedly this bacteria proves to display a weird talent which can be further put to good use. With the help of this study, scientists can unveil the biogeochemical cycle of gold. Further study in this field would be used to refine the precious metal from ores that contain a small number of hazardous metals.

These small creatures of planet earth i.e microbes contribute a significant role in nature and scientists have explored their  role in the purification of precious metal like Gold.

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1. L. Butof , N Wiesemann , M. Herzberg, M. Altzschner,  A. Holleitner, F. Reithc and D. H. Nies . Synergistic gold–copper detoxification at the core of gold biomineralisation in Cupriavidus metallidurans.

Drafted by Nagama Nadaf
 A technophile who is crazy about technology and passionate about blogging. 
I care by sharing recent advancements in technology and try to reach out to the minds of people

Nagama Nadaf

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