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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Rumpelstiltskin Molecule Spins Toxic Ions Into Gold Nuggets
3 February 2013 1:00 pm
If Fritz Haber were alive today, he'd undoubtedly be scrambling to get his hands on some delftibactin, the molecule pictured above. Haber won the 1918 Nobel Prize in chemistry for inventing the process for converting the ultrastable form of nitrogen in the air to the more reactive chemical form required to make fertilizer. He then spent a good chunk of the rest of his scientific career trying to do the opposite chemical trick: pulling reactive gold ions out of seawater and converting them to the more stable form found in gold nuggets, bars, and bullion. He failed miserably, in large part because gold ions make up only a few parts per trillion of seawater. But Delftia acidovorans has succeeded where the Nobel laureate failed. The gold-loving microbe manufactures and secretes delftibactin, which forces gold ions to precipitate out of solution. As the bacteria carry out this job, they not only remove highly toxic gold ions from their surroundings, but they also create the neutrally charged gold nuggets on which it then makes a home. Reporting online today in Nature Chemical Biology, researchers say that they've now isolated delftibactin for the first time. If scientists isolate enough of the molecule, could they finally realize Haber's dream of harvesting gold from the oceans? Perhaps. But then again, delftibactin also carries out the same trick with iron ions. So if you tried it on a large scale you might get lumps of iron instead.
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