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Multiwalled Carbon Nanotubes In Alfalfa And Wheat: Toxicology And Uptake

Pola Miralles, Errin Johnson, Tamara L. Church, Andrew T. Harris

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Data on the bioavailability and toxicity of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in the environment, and, in particular, on their interactions with vascular plants, are limited. We investigated the effects of industrial-grade multiwalled CNTs (75 wt% CNTs) and their impurities on alfalfa and wheat. Phytotoxicity assays were performed during both seed germination and seedling growth. The germinations of both species were tolerant of up to 2560 mg l −1 CNTs, and root elongation was enhanced in alfalfa and wheat seedlings exposed to CNTs. Remarkably, catalyst impurities also enhanced root elongation in alfalfa seedlings as well as wheat germination. Thus the impurities, not solely the CNTs, impacted the plants. CNT internalization by plants was investigated using electron microscopy and two-dimensional Raman mapping. The latter showed that CNTs were adsorbed onto the root surfaces of alfalfa and wheat without significant uptake or translocation. Electron microscopy investigations of internalization were inconclusive owing to poor contrast, so Fe 3 O 4 -functionalized CNTs were prepared and studied using energy-filter mapping of Fe 3 O 4 . CNTs bearing Fe 3 O 4 nanoparticles were detected in the epidermis of one wheat root tip only, suggesting that internalization was possible but unusual. Thus, alfalfa and wheat tolerated high concentrations of industrial-grade multiwalled CNTs, which adsorbed onto their roots but were rarely taken up.