Scientists may have made a 'golden' discovery with sea water

A new study says isolating a molecule can force gold ions out of a solution.

Science may have turned water into gold.

Sea water, to be precise. And it wasn't so much scientists as a gold-loving microbe called Delftia acidovorans.

A study published Monday in Nature Chemical Biology reported that "the gold resident bacterium Delftia acidovorans produces a secondary metabolite that protects from soluble gold through the generation of solid gold forms."

That means that the microbe can force gold ions out of a solution. It does this by secreting the bacteria delftibactin, according to Science Now.

Normally, this bacteria's job is to remove highly toxic gold ions from their surroundings. However, it can also create neutrally charged gold nuggets in the process.

The researchers in the Nature Chemical Biology study were able to isolate the delftibactin bacteria, creating "the first demonstration that a secreted metabolite can protect against toxic gold and cause gold biomineralization."

Isolate enough of the molecule and you could harvest gold from oceans, at least in theory. But, Science Now pointed out, delftibactin has the same effect on iron ions, meaning you might end up with something a lot less shiny instead.

Fitz Haber tried to perfect this trick years ago. Science Now said Haber won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1918 for inventing the process to convert nitrogen in the air to the more reactive chemical that is used in fertilizer. The news site said Haber then spent considerable time and effort unsuccessfully trying to do the opposite and pull reactive gold ions out of seawater.


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