Scientists have used nanotechnology in some bizarre applications
Plant biologist Mariya Khodakovskaya and nanotechnologist
Alexandru Biris ...
planted tomato seeds in a growth medium that contained carbon nanotubes. They found that the seeds germinated sooner and seedlings grew faster than those in a non-treated medium [New Scientist]. After 12 days, 72 percent of the treated seeds had germinated compared with 30 percent of the untreated group. After four weeks, the nanotube-supplemented seeds were twice as tall and had twice the biomass. However, the root systems in both groups were roughly the same.
which recently appeared in the journal ACS Nano
, proposes that nanotubes poke holes in the seeds, which allows water to seep in and speeds up germination. However, some researchers are skeptical that a complex process like germination can be enhanced simply by poking holes in the seed's coating, and at least one researcher is suggesting that the nanotubes cause a hormonal imbalance in the plants. Before nanotubes could become a commercial fertilizer, their effect on the environment would have to be studied, with close attention to how nanotubes move through the food chain.
Some single-walled nanotubes are toxic to some insects; testing on mice has found multi-layer nanotubes (like the kind used in the study) have carcinogenic effects similar to those of asbestos [Popular Science].
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Image: flickr / wit