Mung Beans Like You've Never Seen Them Before


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Categories: Green

As part of her project called Grow, Erica Seccombe has captured the transformation of seeds as they germinate, from embryo to first leaf stage. But unlike conventional time-lapse photography, you can actually see what's happening inside the beans as well as outside.

Ms Seccombe created these 'virtual sprouts' using state-of-the-art micro-CT scanning and data visualisation technology at the Australian National University.

"I have captured the most precise possible virtual model of the seeds in the process of germination," said Ms Seccombe, who is doing the work as part of her PhD in photography and media arts.

"They are the truest representation of the original as possible.

"Both the interior and exterior of the virtual germinating seed can be observed simultaneously and from any angle, inside and out."

As the seeds grow, their density changes and this in turn is reflected in the micro-CT scan.

While her interest is in making art, the bubbles revealed inside the seeds have caught the attention of scientists.

GROW: Work in Progress #2 (copy) Erica Seccombe 2013 from Erica Seccombe on Vimeo.

Mysterious bubbles have scientists intrigued

The bubbles seen forming in the first two videos have caused quite a bit of discussion among researchers at the Australian National University's Research School of Biology.

"There's a couple of interesting ideas that we've had about what they could be," Professor Adrienne Nicotra said.

"It might shed light on some processes that are going on inside the seeds before the seed coat bursts."

Her guess is that they are bubbles of carbon dioxide (CO2) from respiration, trapped inside the seed.

When a seed germinates it soaks up water and its metabolism kicks in, and if the seed coat is good at letting things in but not out, then the CO2 could build up inside the seed, Professor Nicotra adds.


One idea is that such pressure could even help split open the seed.

Another idea, put forward by biophysicist and PhD candidate, Mr Amit Singh, is the bubbles are formed by liquid converting to gas as a result of pressure building up in the seed as the embryo grows.

"This phenomenon has been reported elsewhere but this would be the first instance of it being seen in seeds," Mr Singh said.

Although, he adds, the bubbles might simply be an artefact of the experiment: X-rays from the micro-CT scanning may be heating the water inside the seed, causing it to vaporise.

All agree more experiments need to be carried out to say what's happening.

"I think what's really fascinating about the images is that they're primarily art but they illustrate what might be some really interesting biological processes," ProfessorNicotra said.

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