Scientists from Singapore have come up with a new soft, flexible particle that they say could be used as a building block for a new generation of environmentally friendly and biocompatible materials, all of which start with pollen,media reported. These hard natural particles have been turned into a microgel-like substance through a soap-like process, and scientists hope that one day they will find a home for the human body or in a greener sponge.
The study, conducted at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, was inspired by structural changes in pollen walls — pollen particles germinate during germination. The process is determined by enzymes in the pollen wall that alter their elasticity, and the researchers set out to study how to manipulate the process to give them new properties.
To do this, the team took pollen from a sunflower and removed a layer of cement-like pollen from the pollen grains. They are then placed under alkaline conditions for up to 12 hours to make them expand and become more like gels. It is understood that the team can change the flexibility of these substances by growing them at different times, resulting in soft, elastic, high-strength microgel particles.
The scientists envision that, with the help of emerging 3D and 4D printing technologies, the new particles could serve as building blocks for polymer gels, sponges and other materials with unique properties. In addition, according to studies, when used with human tissue does not trigger immune, allergic or toxic reactions, so they can also be used in wound dressings, prosthesis and even electronic products implanted into the body.
“Our team at Nanyang Technological University has converted hard pollen particles into soft microgel particles that exceed their natural performance limits, which can change their properties with external stimuli,” said study author Professor Subra Suresh. The widespread, actually scalable, offers hope. “
The study was published in Nature Communications.