Gold seeking plants and fungi

When prospecting for heavy metals, classic prospection techniques may be accompanied by innovative methods such as phytoprospection, an exploration process based on the study of “indicator” vegetable species. In fact certain biological organisms provide information about the characteristics of rocks in the subsoil, that is about the minerals which may be present.

The study of plants may be used in particular in the search for gold. It is not by chance, then, that two researchers in Australia from Adelaide University, Nathan Reid and Steven Hill, have systematically analysed the vegetation present around four mines in the Tanami gold province: a semi desertic area in the west covering about 160 thousand square kilometres. The two scholars therefore discovered that the chemical characteristics of plants like Triodia pungens or Eucalyptus brevifolia are able to suggest what initial steps may be taken efficiently “for an exploration reconnaissance”, as they act as effective signals for the presence of the precious substance.

On the other side of the world, Zdenek Randa, from the Institute for Nuclear Physics of the Czech Republic Academy of Sciences, made a detailed analysis on the characteristics of fungi growing next to the gold lodes at Mokrsko. Together with five more researchers he discovered that fungi from the genus Lycoperdon and Agaricus, the famous champignon being among them, turn out to be particularly efficient in absorbing molecules of gold into their organism. In reality, as explained on the “Soil Biology and Biochemistry” magazine, it is not yet totally clear how gold is absorbed within the fibres; however, it is clear that the precious mineral interferes with the metabolism of these fungi in ways that make these living organisms indicators of gold seams. (

From the Nòva weekly supplement of Sole 24 ore dated Thursday 01/07/2010 page 7 by Andrea Carobene

Influenza, protection is gold

Gold nano-molecules could be used to increase protection against flu. A group of researchers at New York State University discovered that nano-rods of the precious metal are capable of activating cell immunity reactions, increasing defences against infection. The researchers successfully experimented their technique, described on Pnas, against the A variant of the H1N1 virus, a source of so much worry. The gold nano-molecules have also been at the core of another experiment carried out by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy, in the State of New York. Qui Shan-Yu Lin used them to build micro-lenses capable of improving imaging techniques for infrared radiation. According to Lin this technology will permit the manufacturing of high efficiency night-vision cinecameras and extremely powerful satellite photo cameras. (

From the Nòva weekly supplement of Sole 24 ore dated 27/05/2010, page 2 by Andrea Carobene.