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A Bag of Gold

A Bag of Gold

October 25, 2018

Chawalit Charoenpong, a graduate student in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program, uses a blowtorch to heat up a bag made of gold as part of an experiment to learn more about how ammonia is produced at seafloor hydrothermal vents. Gold is malleable, can withstand high pressure and heat, and does not react with the other chemicals, making it a good container for use in a reactor at high temperatures and pressures similar to those at vents. Some microbes convert ammonia into amino acids—key building blocks for proteins and enzymes. Scientists theorize that the first life forms on Earth may have emerged at vents. (Photo Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

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