Plant-based nanocrystals save tree fruit from frost damage

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In Washington, groundbreaking nanotechnology designed to protect cherries, apples and other popular fruits from frost damage is showing positive results in tests by Washington State University researchers. The nanocrystals are made from plant-based material, a more environmentally friendly method for controlling temperatures for crops than current techniques.

Growers use methods such as wind turbines to circulate air and raise the temperature of cold pockets in orchards. Or, they use heaters that cost thousands of dollars per night and emit pollution.

The unique nanocrystal solution was formulated by Xiao Zhang, associate professor at WSU Tri-Cities’ Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory, and a team of collaborators representing multiple disciplines. “With these unique structural characteristics and physical properties, and the fact that the nanocrystals are all made out of biobased materials and are considered renewable, we are identifying a high-value niche application for tree fruit and frost prevention and protection,” Xiao Zhang said.