Contrasting effects of engineered carbon nanotubes on plants: a review

Meththika Vithanage, Mihiri Seneviratne, Mahtab Ahmad, Binoy Sarkar, Yong Sik Ok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


Rapid surge of interest for carbon nanotube (CNT) in the last decade has made it an imperative member of nanomaterial family. Because of the distinctive physicochemical properties, CNTs are widely used in a number of scientific applications including plant sciences. This review mainly describes the role of CNT in plant sciences. Contradictory effects of CNT on plants physiology are reported. CNT can act as plant growth inducer causing enhanced plant dry biomass and root/shoot lengths. At the same time, CNT can cause negative effects on plants by forming reactive oxygen species in plant tissues, consequently leading to cell death. Enhanced seed germination with CNT is related to the water uptake process. CNT can be positioned as micro-tubes inside the plant body to enhance the water uptake efficiency. Due to its ability to act as a slow-release fertilizer and plant growth promoter, CNT is transpiring as a novel nano-carbon fertilizer in the field of agricultural sciences. On the other hand, accumulation of CNT in soil can cause deleterious effects on soil microbial diversity, composition and population. It can further modify the balance between plant-toxic metals in soil, thereby enhancing the translocation of heavy metal(loids) into the plant system. The research gaps that need careful attention have been identified in this review.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1421-1439
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental geochemistry and health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec 1
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Carbon nanotube
  • Fullerene
  • Plant growth
  • Seed germination
  • Slow-release fertilizer
  • Soil microorganisms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • General Environmental Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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