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Scientists Extract Gold Using Cornstarch

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Scientists Extract Gold Using Cornstarch
Photo Jurii/Creative Commons

When it comes to cooking, cornstarch is commonly used in slurries and puddings. But did you know this cheap kitchen ingredient is also helpful in extracting gold?

That was the accidental discovery made by scientists at Northwestern University. The discovery is monumental as it allows the extraction of gold without cyanide, a toxic ingredient that is currently a mainstay in the process.

''The elimnation of cyanide from the gold industry is of the utmost importance environmentally. We have replaced nasty reagants with a cheap, biologically friendly material devired from starch,'' said Sir Fraser Stoddart, a chemistry professor who led the scientific research.

This is good news for the planet since making an 1/3-ounce 18-karat ring results in at least 20 tons of waste and 13 pounds of toxic emissions, according to data collected by Mother Jones. Further more, those emissions contain 5.5 pounds of lead, 3 pounds of arsenic, almost 2 ounces of mercury and 1 ounce of cyanide.

But the process of making gold from cornstarch is highly complex. It involves making bundles of needles that contain gold atoms. For curious minds, the entire chemical process is further explained in this Popular Science article.

As foodies, we're excited that a more natural and affordable way of extracting gold will make it easier to produce luxurious treats like these 24 K gold champagne lollipops.

Via Grist

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