Last week, a young South African scientist nabbed a top international award for her groundbreaking metallurgical research. Geologist Tshiamo Legoale, aged just 27, is probing methods to use wheat as a gold hyper-accumulator - or, as she puts it, "grow gold from wheat". By MARELISE VAN DER MERWE.
South Africa, Tshiamo Legoale is quick to point out, has an estimated 17.7-million tons of gold waste. "All this gold was mined out previously, but tiny amounts remain in the dumps," she explains.
Just in time for Youth Month and the Youth in Science and Technology Indaba, Legoale, a geologist and researcher at metallurgical R&D organisation Mintek, late last week won top honours at the FameLab International 2017 contest - one of the largest of its kind globally. She won both the audience and the judges' vote, which was a surprise, she says, "because all 31 contestants had wonderful research".
Be that as it may, Legoale cruised to the finish with research that uses wheat as a gold hyper-accumulator, which essentially means wheat plants are used to harvest gold from mine dumps. In layman's terms, the wheat is planted in the dumps, where enzymes found in the roots react with the gold...