Jenna: Have you ever had the fun job of trying to remove Ivy from a tree or wall (while at the same time wishing that you didn’t have to because it looks so pretty!!)? Well if you have, you will know how hard it is, and it has now been discovered that we have nanotechnology to blame!!!
Researchers at the University of Tennessee have discovered the secret behind the ivy plant’s amazing gripping abilities – they appear to secrete nanoparticles that help them grip to surfaces.
Microscopic rootlets spring out from the stems and secrete a ‘small yellowish matter’ as first described by Charles Darwin in 1876. Atomic force microscopy has now lifted the lid on the yellowish matter and revealed that it contains uniform particles 70nm across. The researchers believe the nanoparticles are produced inside the stem and then secreted out through the rootlets. The research team is now working out the mechanism by which the ivy produces nanoparticles and hope to work out exactly how they help the plant stick to surfaces. They will also investigate whether they could use ivy to produce other nanoparticles.