Waste not, want not

Researchers in Germany have found a way to control the growth of nanoscopic catalyst particles using bacteria that live in uranium mines. Bacillus sphaericus JG-A12 has evolved a protective protein layer to protect it from extreme environments by aggregating toxic metals with which it comes into contact. Now, Katrin Pollmann of the Forschungszentrum Rossendorf in Dresden and her colleagues have found a way to exploit this period protein layer to grow nanoparticles of platinum. The Pt clusters have a well-defined structure and preliminary tests hint at much greater catalytic activity than conventional platinum catalysts. The next step is to see whether they can use the same approach to make gold catalyst particles too.