Nano4fresh - Nanomaterials for an environmentally friendly and sustainable handling of perishable products

About Us

The large part of fresh products in the UE are produced in Mediterranean countries due to their favourable climatology. Many of these products, classified as climacteric (e.g., tomatoes, avocados, pears and apples) present a continuous postharvest ripening, that occurs evolving respiration gases and the production of Volatile Organic Compounds - VOCs like ethylene that work as a natural ripening hormone that leads to undesirable and progressive ripening and senescence during the storage / transportation steps. Multiple strategies have been developed to control ethylene production and/or removal in order to slow down maturation and extend the shelf life of climacteric fruits and vegetables. In this project the photooxidation of ethylene using solar radiation will be carried out saving energy and avoiding additional emissions of CO2 or other pollutants. For that, different research group with large experience in the preparation of different types of nanomaterials (zeolites, carbons, MOFs) and their applications (adsorbents, catalysts, antibacterial/antifungic) will coordinate their efforts trying to optimize filters and reactors able to be integrated in the recirculation circuit of refrigeration chambers for the storage / transport of perishable fruits. These new nanomaterials will be prepared by advanced techniques of synthesis and specifically designed routes in order to improve the required characteristics (high adsorption capacity, reversible adsorption, photoactivity under solar light and antibacterial performance), but also integrating different types of agricultural residues in the synthesis of these nanomaterials, thus avoiding the accumulation of wastes and improving the circular economy of the agri-food chain. It should be possible for most produce to use a technology that provides the required postharvest life at a reduced cost, and with some reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

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Period of Implementations

Dec 1, 2020 - Nov 30, 2023

Total Budget

EUR 769.760,00

OUR IMPACT

Goals

Nano4fresh aims to extend the shelf-life of perishable products, reducing post-harvest chemical treatments (e.g. ethylene inhibitors and antibacterial/antifungic) during the transport and storage period, food losses and wastes. This will be achieved by developing nanomaterials (carbons, zeolites, MOFs and PCPs) with innovative and versatile characteristics, in terms of adsorption, catalytic photoactivity and antibacterial/fungi performances, to surpass the current state-of-the-art approaches for prevention of the ripening processes of food products.

Objectives

Development of a series of nanomaterials with fitted physicochemical properties to be used in devices (filters or photoreactors) for the optimisation of the atmosphere surrounding perishable products (fruits, vegetable or flowers) during their storage/transport steps in the agri-food chain, trying to avoid premature aging of the products with the subsequent loss of quality or even the discard of significant parts of these products. This approach comprises the ethylene removal, both during long storage, transportation and at the retail stores, leading to eradicate the use of chemicals as a post-harvest strategy to prevent the ripening process. The developed technology will be tested, and the performances validated in a laboratory-controlled and real-life environment to supply fruit quality parameters (colour, compactness, sugar content, enzymatic activity) in the presence and absence of developed devices.

Impact Pathway

Nano4Fresh technologies application are for post-harvest strategies and logistic solutions to reduce food losses during storage and transportation. Knowing that ethylene is pivotal in the ripening of climacteric fruits, there is also a great interest on the use of ethylene and other VOCs in the ripening of fruits in pre-climacteric stage , the stage of the fruits at picking date. The reversibility of the adsorption process will be used in the attempt to maintain fresh the product by adsorbing VOCs and thus preserving the pre-climacteric state for different periods of time, simulating the required storage/transport conditions. Then ethylene will be desorbed to favor the maturation of the fruits after this period, the shelf life period that simulates the arrival to the destination market. On the other hand, we must consider that VOCs are main pollutants of the air and should be oxidized avoiding emissions to the atmosphere

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