Michigan State University researchers have found a way to produce 24-karat gold from liquid gold using bacteria. Assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, Kazem Kashefi, and associate professor of electronic art and intermedia, Adam Brown, found the metal-tolerant bacteria Cupriavidus metallidurans can grow onto liquid gold a toxic chemical compound found in nature. The bacteria transforms the toxins and produces a gold nugget.
Their art installation ‘The Great Work of the Metal Lover’ uses a combination of biotechnology, art, and alchemy. It contains a portable laboratory made of 24-karat gold-plated hardware and a glass bioreactor. A series of art prints have also been made that contain some of the gold produced in the bioreactor. Brown said:
This is neo-alchemy. Every part, every detail of the project is a cross between modern microbiology and alchemy. Science tries to explain the phenomenological world. As an artist, I’m trying to create a phenomenon. Art has the ability to push scientific inquiry.
‘The Great Work of the Metal Lover’ received an honorable mention at the world-renowned cyber art competition Prix Ars Electronica in Austria, where it is on display until October 7th.