Newly invented technology inspired by the world of plants

Read more about an entirely new invention with a considerable potential in the agricultural and food industry.

Just like animal, also plants have developed different defence mechanisms over time. One of them is the production of bioactive substances, which protects the plant from predators (insects, herbivores), but also from many types of pathogens (bacteria, fungi). For the reason of their antibacterial, insecticidal and antimycotic effect are these substances extracted from plants and they are then used in the form of essential oils for the production of medicine, food supplements and cosmetics. It is also used in the agricultural and food industry, where they have the potential to store food and develop environmentally friendly agricultural products.

Biomimetics is a scientific field, which tries to use functional mechanisms from the world of plants and animals for the production and development of new technologies. The mentioned substances are for similar studies ideal, so far though scientists have come across one catch. In the wild the plant builds up its own reserves of defence substances, which they start to release only in the event of an attack by a foreign microorganism. By extracting the active ingredients, we thus lose an essential part of this process. That is the precisely timed release of substances, when the plant detects the presence of a dangerous pathogen. Although technologies based on the principal of gradual release of active substances have appeared, this method in comparison to the controlled release of substances in the nature is hardly comparable.

The team of associate professor Klouček from the Faculty of agrobiology and natural resources at CZU has in cooperation with colleagues from the Spanish polytechnical university in Valencia made an unprecedented discovery. They have developed an entirely new mesoporous material based on silica for the controlled release of active substances in the laboratory. The pores of the material are filled with the active substance and enclosed by an imaginary “lid”, which is made up of carbohydrates. Exactly these carbohydrates break down, when they come into contact with the enzymes of the foreign microorganisms and the substance from the pores is immediately released. The material functions as a trap, which is triggered by the microorganism itself, similarly to the plants themselves. The controlled release of the content at the correct time is not the only advantage. Plant antimicrobial volatiles are probably one of the most effective natural pesticides. They prove to be very efficient in the fight against the so-called “black mould” (Aspergillus niger), which attacks many agricultural products. In a normal environment, however, volatiles evaporate very quickly, and their effectiveness decreases significantly over time. In the mesoporous material the substances are safely enclosed, therefore, they cannot evaporate quickly, and they are released when their time comes. In addition to that, all components of the material are non-toxic, safe, and based on natural material.

The invented material has a tremendous potential especially in the agricultural, food and pharmaceutical industry. The invention is protected by Czech and European patents and in time you might encounter it in your garden.

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