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Real Life Alchemy: Bacteria Creates Pure Gold

Alchemy was dismissed as pseudoscience many years ago. But, advancements in technology have lent bits of legitimacy to alchemy over the years. For example, scientists have synthesized gold atoms via artificial transmutation (using a particle accelerator) or nuclear transmutation (using a nuclear reactor). Unfortunately, both processes are completely impractical. The gold created only lasts for several seconds before becoming unstable.

However, a new technique has been discovered that creates lasting, 24k gold. It’s all done by a bacterium, Cupriavidus metallidurans, that has an affinity for gold chloride. Gold chloride has a few uses in medicine, industry, and chemistry. Most famously, it is the main ingredient for making cranberry glass.

Ordinarily, gold chloride is toxic. But this bacterium is unaffected. As a matter of fact, it actually eats the gold chloride. After a week or so, it metabolizes the gold chloride and excretes 24k gold as a waste product. Scientists theorize that this process is not exclusive to the laboratory setting; it likely happens all the time in areas where gold chloride has formed naturally. 

While amazing, the process is not true alchemy. After all, it takes gold to create gold chloride. In reality, you’re just getting your gold back – not creating brand new gold. Perhaps if scientists can reverse engineer the process, alchemy will be fully realized.

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