The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Carbon Nanotubes' Threat Turned into an Opportunity for Agriculture

CNT's ability to bridge cell walls help accelerate the germination of seeds

1 min read

Earlier this year I noted that to heighten nanotechnology’s threat in the food industry observers often would broaden it to being used in agriculture without much in the way of identifying any real applications for nanotech in farming.

But the Economist had an interesting article earlier this month where nanotech’s potential use in agriculture became quite clear. Researchers at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock have discovered that the qualities that make carbon nanotubes dangerous to cells also make them uniquely capable of speeding the germination of seeds, which in turn makes the resulting sprout grow faster and larger.

The researchers, Mariya Khodakovskaya and Alex Biris, wondered if the ability of carbon nanotubes to bridge a cell wall could translate into being able to penetrate the tough husk that surround unsprouted cells. It turns out they can and as a result have demonstrated the ability to cut the germination time for the seeds in half from six days down to three.

Oh dear, the GMO/Nanotech equivalency mavens are going to have a field day with this one. But you know in parts of the world that can’t be quite as particular about these things, any way that you can improve farming and boost yields would probably be looked upon favorably. There are people to feed after all.

The Conversation (0)

The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

Keep Reading ↓Show less