There is a strong and urgent need to find alternatives to the polymeric microcapsules applied in the agriculture industry, because of the immediate phasing out in the EU of the currently used microcapsules that pollute the environment with microplastic residues. Eliminating microplastics from the environment has been declared by the EU as a major active task.
- An easy-to-implement alternative microencapsulation solution, which uses components all of which are totally safe and friendly to the environment, with no use of polymeric plastics, and with the ability to function as release-carriers for the currently used encapsulated agrochemicals.
- The proposed alternative is based on new hybrid sol-gel silica-based/metal organic framework (MOF) microcapsules.
- Safety: Besides silica, which is totally safe, the MOF component is based on copper (which is even used as an agricultural fertilizer) and on a safe small organic linker (BTC).
- Ability to tailor the release time-profile, which varies between one agrochemical and another, and which varies also with the relation to the crop to be protected, and with relation to the climate characteristics. This fine-tuning ability (which does not exist in the currently used plastic microcapsules) becomes possible because of the ability to tailor the properties of the capsule’s shell, such as its porosity, hybrid composition, and thickness.
- Generic technology: the shell can be tailored for additional functions of the capsules. In particular, the novel microcapsules which, side-by-side to the release activity, will also work in the reverse direction, namely act as a selective adsorptive material for removal of pollutants from water and soil.
- The proposed methodology as a generic release method could be applied for a host of agrochemicals, and in other areas beyond agriculture.
- We are seeking collaboration with companies developing polymeric microcapsules for the agriculture industry.