Jump to content
Your browser is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this websites. Learn how to update your browser[Close]

Health & Innovation

Swiss researchers develop plant-based nanomaterials

Scientists have found that short-term exposure to plant-derived cellulose nanofibres - a promising natural alternative to carbon nanotubes - does not harm lung tissue. Cellulose nanofibres could offer a safer and cheaper path to manufacturing strong, lightweight equipment.

Scientists at the University of Fribourg’s Adolphe Merkle Institute (AMI) have tested cellulose nanofibers made from cotton for any adverse impact on lung cells. The cellulose fibres have the same shape and conductivity as carbon nanotubes, but are cheaper to manufacture.

Conventional carbon nanotubes are already being used to make sporting equipment, construction materials and vehicles due to their unique combination of light weight and strength. But they have a big drawback.

“Carbon nanotubes have been shown to induce adverse effects on lungs,” study leader Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser told swissinfo.ch. “Now, we are trying to see if [cellulose-based] materials also induce adverse effects if inhaled, because inhalation is the easiest route for particles to enter the body once they have been released into the environment.”

The cotton nanofibres were tested on a specially developed 3D lung cell system to simulate the surface of the lungs. The results of the study revealed that the fibres were not harmful; the lung cells showed no signs of acute stress or inflammation. In particular, the researchers observed that the cells were better able to break down and eliminate shorter, more flexible fibres than longer ones.

To avoid potential health risks, Rothen-Rutishauser recommends that manufacturers use nanofibres that are short and pliable instead of long and rigid.



All rights reserved. The content of the website by swissinfo.ch is copyrighted. It is intended for private use only. Any other use of the website content beyond the use stipulated above, particularly the distribution, modification, transmission, storage and copying requires prior written consent of swissinfo.ch. Should you be interested in any such use of the website content, please contact us via contact@swissinfo.ch.

As regards the use for private purposes, it is only permitted to use a hyperlink to specific content, and to place it on your own website or a website of third parties. The swissinfo.ch website content may only be embedded in an ad-free environment without any modifications. Specifically applying to all software, folders, data and their content provided for download by the swissinfo.ch website, a basic, non-exclusive and non-transferable license is granted that is restricted to the one-time downloading and saving of said data on private devices. All other rights remain the property of swissinfo.ch. In particular, any sale or commercial use of these data is prohibited.