It may sound like something out of alchemy stories, but this mysterious bacteria is completely real.
Throughout the history of mankind, turning ordinary or metal things into something else has been defined by magical powers or even miracles performed by divine entities. However, these are all just legends, mainly because people do not understand science and there are people who take advantage of it to trick the less knowledgeable.
Closer to our present, this magical power to turn ordinary things into something extraordinary is defined by the term alchemy, something also practiced by magicians or miners. “magic power”. There are many fairy tales and children’s stories that define the transformation of metals, such as steel or copper, into pure gold but these are still only human imaginations.
Like many other elements, gold can cycle through a biogeochemical cycle that includes: disintegrating, moving around, and finally reconcentrating in the Earth’s sediments. Microorganisms are also involved in all steps of this process. This has led scientists to question how they are not poisoned by highly toxic compounds formed from gold ions in the soil.
As technology advances and our scientific knowledge advances, we understand that these fairy tales can indeed happen, and this has been proven by a bacterium found in the past. in 1976 named Cupriavidus Metallidurans, living in soil rich in toxic elements.
A research team from Martin Luther University Halle Wittenberg, has discovered the molecular processes that extract gold from the metal produced by this bacterium. Although the chemistry behind it is quite complicated, here we will try to explain it in a simple way.
This bacterium is attracted to most metals, but from the studies done, we know that this bacterium can perform the process of making small gold nuggets from metals such as copper. . If the bacteria detects that there is too much copper around, it releases a special enzyme called CupA, which is essentially a “pump” on the bacterial wall that can pump out toxic heavy metals. .
This bacteria actually plays an important role in making what scientists call secondary gold. This structural break occurs from the creation of geologically formed gold ores (primary gold). Metallidurans refines gold biologically, instead of traditional methods that use toxic chemicals to extract toxic heavy metals like cyanide and chlorine.
According to scientists, primary gold is an ancient type of gold made up of geological processes, while secondary gold is much younger, and closer to the surface, usually in the form of ores. . Its formation can be explained as follows: in the process of groundwater dissolving primordial gold and transporting it upwards, some bacteria may have ’swallowed’ these tiny bits of primordial gold and gone. onto the surface.
C. metallidurans thrives in soils containing both hydrogen and a wide range of toxic heavy metals. This means that C. metallidurans bacteria do not have to compete with other organisms as much. They use the enzyme CupA to transport copper out of the cell. But the presence of gold poses a new problem. In the presence of gold compounds, the enzyme CupA is inhibited, which causes copper and gold compounds to remain in bacterial cells.
Scientists say bacteria can turn a ship full of gold chloride into pure gold in just a few weeks. It sounds like this bacterium will make a lot of people rich by owning them, but in reality, making gold from this bacteria would require creating an extremely toxic environment. .
The big challenge around this is to create an ecosystem that is toxic enough for bacteria to live and thrive in to achieve the ability to turn large amounts of copper into gold.
As scientist dietrich H Nies puts it, “Copper and gold combined are actually more toxic than they appear individually.”
While the basics are well established, for this bacterium, they are not 100% understood by experts because it seems to be unreliable in the process of turning copper or other metals into yellow – this depends a lot on how virulent the bacteria can reproduce.
It is quite possible that people in ancient history or even the Middle Ages (the so-called witches or alchemists) understood how this bacterium worked and used it to transform metal into gold or maybe even for other purposes.
Historians are trying to go through historical texts to determine if there are any mentions of this bacterium in an effort to better understand this process or other possibilities it may have. .