Controlled Release of Fertilizer Thanks to Biopolymer Chips

 In E3, Germany, Environment, Agriculture

In Germany, researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum are looking at the benefits of biopolymers for the targeted introduction of fertilizers into agricultural soils and to devel­op a method to encap­su­late fer­til­iz­er and con­tin­u­ous­ly intro­duce it into the soil.

The cap­sule mate­r­i­al forms a bar­ri­er to the envi­ron­ment and is intend­ed to pre­vent a sudden release of the nitroge­nous sub­stance. Doctoral stu­dent Diana Keddi tried out var­i­ous pack­ag­ing tech­niques. “In order to be able to con­trol the release behav­ior, we have to build up a spe­cif­ic car­ri­er matrix for the fer­til­iz­er,” she explains. “Since the soil should not be con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with the cap­sule mate­r­i­al, it is also advan­ta­geous if the mate­r­i­al is biodegrad­able.”

The Bochum researchers there­fore use a biopoly­mer foam made of poly­lac­tic acid, PLA for short, from the English term poly­lac­tic acid, as the cap­sule mate­r­i­al. Lactic acid can be obtained from corn or sugar beet, for exam­ple. Diana Keddi used var­i­ous tech­niques to test how she can create a nitro­gen fer­til­iz­er depot in the biopoly­mer, using urea as a nitro­gen-con­tain­ing model sub­stance. In the end, the encap­su­lat­ed fer­til­iz­er was in the form of chips, sim­i­lar to the pack­ag­ing chips that are now found in many ship­ping boxes instead of Styrofoam.

The biopoly­mer chips that are loaded with fer­til­iz­er in this way could simply be buried in the ground next to the plants, and the nitroge­nous sub­stances would then get into the earth step by step. With the study, the engi­neers have pro­vid­ed evi­dence that the tech­nol­o­gy works in prin­ci­ple. Further test series are cur­rent­ly being car­ried out which trans­fer the release tests to the real appli­ca­tion in soil. The aim is to use the infor­ma­tion obtained for indus­tri­al appli­ca­tion.

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Category: Research

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