The alchemists would be surprised to learn that certain microbes can change the nature of gold. An extremophile is a microorganism that lives in extreme environments, places where most life on earth could not survive. In the 1990s, microbiologists discovered that some microorganisms get energy from breathing in or ingesting dissolved particles of metals that are toxic to humans. Researchers wondered if they could find microbes that “ate” gold, and explored undersea hydrothermal vents and hot springs, where dissolved gold is more likely to be found. Back in their laboratories, the microbes they had collected in these locations were able to convert gold from a dissolved form into an insoluble metallic form, although the particles were still very tiny. Researchers estimate that it would take over a million microbes to produce just one gram of gold.
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Dian Day, Susan Sellers, Rita Wilson

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