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Test finds manufactured nanoparticles don't harm soil ecology

ue University Agriculture Research and Education Center located northwest of the campus.

Dry buckyballs and buckyballs suspended in water were added to the soil in levels of one part per million parts of soil and 1,000 parts per million parts of soil. Over a six-month period, the scientists monitored the size, composition and function of the bacterial community in the soil samples.

Carbon dioxide levels in the soil, or soil respiration, the soil microbes' response to added nutrients, and enzyme activities in the soil were measured. No significant differences were found in soil containing no added nanoparticles and soil samples with either the low-level or high-level of buckyballs, the researchers reported.

If buckyballs were toxic to the soil environment, a reduction in the rate of carbon dioxide production, bacterial community activity and size, and enzyme activity would be expected, Turco said. Enzymes are produced as the bacteria degrade things such as organic matter.

"We thought we would see something negative in soil due to effects of fullerenes, especially at 1,000 parts per million," he said. "Lo and behold, much to our pleasure and surprise, our data shows no adverse effects on the soil microbiology."

Although some previous studies by other scientific groups concluded that buckyballs are toxic to microbes and, therefore, would be harmful to plants and animals if released into soil, Turco's research team doesn't believe that's the case.

"The results that have shown a negative effect from fullerenes are important and suggest a need for further investigation, but they did their studies in a purified culture," Turco said. "You can't look at the effects of manufactured nanoparticles in isolation. You have to put them in a natural environment where other things are reacting with the nanoparticles."

Naturally occurring microbes, organic matter and salts in the soil controlled the exposure level a
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Contact: Susan A. Steeves
ssteeves@purdue.edu
765-496-7481
Purdue University
22-Mar-2007


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