Scientists say there’s a type of bacteria that can eat poison and produce a precious metal, processing the toxin and later – to put it properly – pooping out pure gold.
Slate reports that when the bacteria named Cupriavidus metallidurans was placed into an environment with toxic gold chloride, or liquid gold, the microscopic alchemist devoured the poison and “processed out” 24-karat gold nuggets about a week later.
Scientists think the bacteria likely can perform the same function in nature, but Slate notes it’s unlikely to solve the world’s financial problems or be harnessed into a get-rich-quick scheme. Gold chloride can be found in nature, but one needs gold in order to make it, which makes the poison itself rare and cost-prohibitive.
Still, such “microbial alchemy” has made for an interesting art installation created by Michigan State University professors, whose work appears to have sparked the bacteria’s resurgence in the news. The professors reportedly discovered that the gold-giving bacteria are 25 times stronger than previously thought, and they feature the alchemical process in their art exhibit.
The installation, called “The Great Work of the Metal Lover,” is on display in Austria.
Check out this video from Slate on the gold-pooping bacteria: