Science Projects for Beginners

Does Microwave Radiation Affect Seed Growth?

Scientific Surprise

A microwave is a type of energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation includes cosmic ray photons, gamma rays from radioactive elements, x-rays used in hospitals, UV light waves from the sun, visible light from a light bulb, infrared radiation, microwaves, radio waves, and electric currents.

The title of this experiment might sound a little scary, but it actually just means that you'll be testing what happens to seeds that are placed in a microwave oven and “zapped.”

The point of the project is to learn whether seeds that have been exposed to microwave radiation (that's the stuff that occurs when the microwave is turned on) grow as well, or better, than seeds that haven't been “zapped.”

All you need to do is put equal numbers of bean seeds (or other seeds, but beans are easy to work with) on damp paper towels, then heat each batch for a different amount of time in your microwave oven. The amount of time to which the seeds are exposed to microwave radiation should vary in 30-second intervals from 30 seconds to three minutes. For instance, you'd put the first batch of seeds in the microwave for 30 seconds, the second batch for a minute, the third batch for one minute and 30 seconds, and so forth.

After all the beans (except the control group) have been “zapped,” you'll plant them in the same type of containers and soil. Make sure that all the containers are the same size, and the seeds all receive the same amounts of light and water.

Scientific Surprise

When you press the START button on your microwave oven, the oven generates microwaves from the electrical current flowing through the power cord that is plugged into your wall. These microwaves are able to be absorbed by water, fat, and sugars—the main components of the foods we eat. When the microwaves penetrate the food, they excite the molecules in the food and cause them to move very quickly. The movement of the molecules causes the food to quickly heat up all over.

After two weeks, during which you'll record your observations, measure every sprout and determine the average length of plants in each container, just as you did when sprouting beans in the various liquids. Your results will answer the question of whether or not microwave radiation affects the growth of bean plants.

book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Science Fair Projects © 2003 by Nancy K. O'Leary and Susan Shelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website or call 1-800-253-6476. You can also purchase this book at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.