Struck mould: Scientists discover fungus covered in gold

Last updated at 07:36
artist-image-gold-particles-on-fungusCSIRO

When you think of gold mining, you might imagine lots of shovels, diggers and underground tunnels full of shiny, yellow rocks.

Well, turns out that grabbing a shovel and a metal detector is not the only way to strike upon a gold mine.

Scientists in Australia have recently discovered a fungus that can actually bond with gold particles!

The thread-like fungus releases a chemical that can dissolve gold in the soil around them.

They then collect the gold as it reforms on their strands.

The researchers behind this three-year study of the fungus believe that this could be a brand new way for humans to mine gold.

woman-holding-goldGetty Images
"Ooooh, shiny!" - Humankind
What is gold used for?

Gold has been prized by humans for thousands and thousands of years, due to its shiny appearance.

It is what is known as a chemical element - and can be found on the periodic table as Au.

Commonly, it is used to make jewellery and decorative objects.

More modern uses have found that gold is useful for technology - because it can conduct electricity.

Gold-mine-Australia-aerial-photographGetty Images
The fungus was discovered near Boddington gold mine
Why is this discovery important?

Other than being quite cool, this discovery is important for a few reasons.

Firstly, scientists have been looking for a way to reduce the environmental impact of gold mining, which produces a lot of damaging waste.

It could be that the fungus can be used to extract gold in a less harmful way.

Secondly, scientists believe it could help them find more sources of gold, by examining the fungus for particles of gold and digging in those areas.

Thirdly, the fungus that had bonded with the gold particles was found to have grown much larger and faster than other similar species of fungus.

Lead researcher, Dr Tsing Bohu, will continue to study the fungus to find out why it bonds with gold and to see if it can show them where more gold could be found.

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