19. Dec. 2022

Scientists and innovative research institutions around the world aim to reduce environmental pollution. One way is to fully exploit the potential of waste material. As part of the Czech–Austrian project, Lucy Vojtová's research group, which deals with advanced biomaterials at CEITEC BUT, joined forces with the Austrian company Wood K plus. Together, they are working to provide another use for waste bark, of which the European forest industry alone produces more than 30 million tons per year. It is proven to be a raw material rich in bioactive compounds with the potential to produce specialty chemicals and products with high added value. The material could be used, for example, in protective masks and respirators. 

Europe is struggling with climate change, which, among other things, results in an overpopulation of unwanted insects. Among the most widespread is the spruce borer, which can damage large areas of spruce trees. In the last decade, the bark beetle disaster significantly affected not only the territory of the Czech Republic, but also Upper Austria, for example. This increased the need for felling and the creation of a huge amount of waste bark, which tends not to be used to the extent that it potentially could.

In the Czech–Austrian cross-border cooperation project within the European regional development fund Interreg, scientists and researchers are trying to change the use of waste bark. Their goal is that it is not only used as a source of energy, but also as a raw material from which special products can be made. It has been shown to have demonstrable antibacterial and antiviral properties.

Wood K plus is a leading research organization in the field of wood and renewable resources in Europe. Their main task in the framework of the TECHBIKOM (ATCZ287) project is to process the bark with the help of extractions in the form of extracts of bioactive substances. These are handed over to scientists at the CEITEC BUT research center in Brno, which deals with the development of innovative advanced materials and nanomaterials. As part of the Advanced Biomaterials research group, led by Assoc. Prof. Lucy Vojtová in collaboration with the group of Dr. Radka Přikryl from the BUT Faculty of Chemistry, the substances are used for the preparation of submicron fibers from biodegradable polymers with an adjustable degradation time.

"Our task is to use the process of centrifugal spinning (similar to the process of making cotton candy) to prepare fibers of material with antibacterial and antiviral effects, which will decompose in nature after a certain, predetermined time. We have already verified these fiber properties in a pilot study of the TECHBIKOM project to create a functional sample," explains Vojtová, describing the development of the innovative material. 

For example, the material could be used in the future for the production of self-cleaning masks or respirators, which, unlike existing materials, will biodegrade in nature. This will be addressed by scientists and researchers in further follow-up projects that are currently being prepared.


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