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Carbon Nanotubes Make Great Tomatoes

WASHINGTON — Tomato seeds exposed to nanoparticles in the form of carbon nanotubes that are only 1/50,000 the width of a human hair, sprouted sooner and grew faster in what researchers are describing as a step toward the "goals of nanoagriculture."

Scientists from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock mixed nanotubes with tomato seeds and discovered that the nanotubes "significantly affect [the seeds] biological activity, most probably by enhancing the amount of water that penetrates inside the seeds during the germination period."

The scientists found that seeds mixed with nanotubes accumulated 57.6 percent of moisture they were exposed to, while normal seeds picked up only 38.9 percent. The nano-exposed seeds sprouted up to two times faster than normal seeds and weighed twice as much because of the increased water uptake.

The mechanism by which the nanoparticles cause or support increased water uptake isn't clear, the scientists said, but noted that the "positive effect ... of seed germination could have significant economic importance for agriculture, horticulture, and the energy sector, such as for production of biofuels."

The study appears in the October issue of the Journal ACS Nano.

This article was provided by Inside Science News Service, which is supported by the American Institute of Physics, a not-for-profit publisher of scientific journals.