Water water everywhere
February 22, 2007 3:25 PM   Subscribe

Could you water plants with heavy water? What would be the effect? Would they survive/thrive?
posted by barrakuda to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
According to Wikipedia:

No physical properties are listed for "pure" semi-heavy water, because it cannot be isolated in bulk quantities. In the liquid state, a few water molecules are always in an ionized state, which means the hydrogen atoms can exchange among different oxygen atoms. A sample of hypothetical "pure" semi-heavy water would rapidly transform into a dynamic mixture of 25% light water, 25% heavy water, and 50% semi-heavy water.


Particularly hard-hit by heavy water are the delicate assemblies of mitotic spindle formation necessary for cell division in eukaryotes. Because eukaryotic cell division stops in heavy water, seeds therefore do not germinate in heavy water, and plants stop growing when given only heavy water.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:32 PM on February 22, 2007

so: plants won't grow in pure heavy water. This shouldn't be a problem, since you can't get a stable sample of 100% heavy water. Even if you got a mixture of water and heavy water, it would be so expensive that you'd be silly to water plants with it.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:33 PM on February 22, 2007

The "semi-heavy water" section of the wikipedia entry is somewhat misleading because you can buy highly pure (99%+) heavy water. It's expensive but not ridiculously so: Aldrich will sell you a liter for $840.

Some useful information about heavy water toxicity: here, here, here, here, and here (this seems to be the original mouse paper the others site). Based on the fact that D2O inhibits microtubule polymerization at high enough concentrations I expect it would be toxic to plants at similar levels as it is to animals.
posted by pombe at 4:35 PM on February 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Semi-heavy water is I believe what the idiot Wikipedians are calling the hypothetical compound, DOH. Heavy water is D2O.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:55 PM on February 22, 2007

I would like to invite everyone here to fix that article. Please?
posted by Richard Daly at 6:03 PM on February 25, 2007

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