Gold Sponge Can Extract Traces of Gold and Other Metals From Solutions


Jul 9, 2023

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gold sponge is a type of sponge that can extract traces of gold. It also can be used to remove a variety of other metals from solutions such as those found in electronic waste and sea water. The ability to extract these and other metals from complex real-world samples makes this material potentially useful in a wide range of industries, including electronics, medical, and mining.

When organic chemist Mark Bergmann collected the little green sponge Latrunculina austini from the bottom of Alaska’s North Pacific Ocean during a 2005 mission to study the seafloor, he knew his find was special. The sponge’s chemical extracts contain a molecule that kills pancreatic and ovarian cancer cells, but the tumor-fighting substance only occurs in small quantities in L. austini, making it hard to study.

So, Bergmann turned to his true passion: sterols. Sterols are fat-like molecules that act like cholesterol. He had long known that sea sponges were a treasure trove for new types of sterols, and he set out to learn as much as he could about this amazing group of natural substances.

The result of his work is a new material called MOF-Polymer composites that can extract a variety of different metals, including gold. His team has developed cost-effective antibacterial foams by adsorbing lysozyme-protected gold nanoclusters from sponges, and these materials can inhibit the growth of bacteria on surfaces such as mobile phones and doorknobs. They have also demonstrated the ability to use these materials to rapidly extract a variety of other metals from river water, sea water, and solutions obtained from electronic waste.