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How do green algae react to carbon nanotubes?
Date:11/4/2011

, that the algae grow more slowly because they stick together as a result of the presence of CNTs and therefore receive less light. To prove this, they developed two further tests which allowed them to measure quantitatively the shadowing and agglomeration effects the nanotubes had on the algae. The results show that the slower growth of the organisms is in actual fact primarily due to these two factors. The conclusion is therefore that CNTs are not directly toxic to green algae, as earlier studies indicated. In the presence of CNTs, algae simply do not enjoy ideal growth conditions because, like land plants, they need sufficient room and light to do so. The clumping and shadowing effects which were observed only manifest themselves at elevated CNT concentrations of more than one milligram per liter, however. These levels of carbon nanotubes concentrations are currently unlikely to be met in the environment.

Our study shows how difficult is to understand in detail the effect of nanomaterials on organisms, says Empa and ART researcher Fabienne Schwab. The results will help to test other nanoparticles to ensure that the safety of humans and their environment is guaranteed. Empa researcher Bernd Nowack advises that until comprehensive, long term results are available for complex organisms such as green algae, nanoparticles (particularly unbound nanoparticles) should not be released into our environment.


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Contact: Fabienne Schwab
fabienne.schwab@empa.ch
41-443-777-197
Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA)
Source:Eurekalert  

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