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Plant Extracts Produce ‘Green’ Nanoparticles

Green tea plants, sunflowers, coffee, fruit and peppers may replace potentially hazardous chemicals normally used in a host of products including textiles and clothing, scientists say.

Extracts from these plants could play a new role in the sustainable manufacturing of the most widely used family of nanoparticles, according to an article published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

Rajender Varma, Mallikarjuna Nadagouda and colleagues explain that silver nanoparticles are used in a host of consumer products, especially for their ability to kill bacteria and ward off undesirable odors. Those products include antibacterial socks, undergarments and other clothing. Existing processes for making silver nanoparticles require potentially hazardous chemicals including sodium borohydride, use a lot of energy and leave behind undesirable byproducts that require special handling.

Duke University researchers in February demonstrated that silver nanoparticles can have an adverse effect on plants and microorganisms. Other products with silver nanoparticles are children’s toys and pacifiers, disinfectants and toothpaste. With production expected to increase, scientists are seeking greener ways to make silver nanoparticles.

Plant extracts work well in the synthesis of nanoparticles because they act as reducing agents as well as capping agents, according to the ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering article. In addition to plant-based substances, extracts from bacteria and fungi, as well as natural polymers, like starches, could serve as more sustainable substitutes in silver nanoparticle production.

The white powdered sugar that coats Dunkin’ Donuts Powdered Cake Donuts and Hostess Donettes contains nanoparticles of potential carcinogen titanium dioxide, according to research published in February by As You Sow.

Last month, Brown and Yale Universities researchers said they have found a cheaper, more sustainable way to use CO2 to make acrylate, an important commodity chemical used to make materials from polyester fabrics to diapers.

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