Plant-based spray could be used in n95 masks and energy devices

October 07, 2020

Engineers have invented a way to spray extremely thin wires made of a plant-based material that could be used in N95 mask filters, devices that harvest energy for electricity, and potentially the creation of human organs.

The method involves spraying methylcellulose, a renewable plastic material derived from plant cellulose, on 3D-printed and other objects ranging from electronics to plants, according to Materials Horizons.

"This could be the first step towards 3D manufacturing of organs with the same kinds of amazing properties as those seen in nature," said senior author

Thin wires (nanowires) made of soft matter have many applications, including the cilia that keep our lungs clean and the setae (bristly structures) that allow geckos to grip walls. Such wires have also been used in small triboelectric energy harvesters, with future examples possibly including strips laminated on shoes to charge a cell phone and a door handle sensor that turns on an alarm.

While people have known how to create nanowires since the advent of cotton candy melt spinners, controlling the process has always been limited. The barrier has been the inability to spray instead of spin such wires.

Singer's
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The lead author is Lin Lei, a Rutgers doctoral student. Catherine J. Nachtigal, a Rutgers undergraduate student, contributed to the study.

Rutgers University

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