Fertilisers with lower environmental impacts and reduced costs for farmers are being developed by University of Adelaide researchers in the world-first use of the new advanced material graphene as a fertiliser carrier.
In partnership with industry, the researchers have demonstrated effective slow release fertilisers can be produced from loading essential trace elements onto graphene oxide sheets.
Using graphene as a carrier means the fertilisers can be applied in a more targeted fashion, with overall increased fertiliser efficiency and great nutrient uptake by the plants. The graphene-based carriers have so far been demonstrated with the micronutrients zinc and copper. Work is continuing with macronutrients such as nitrogen and phosphate.
“Fertilisers that show slower, more controlled release and greater efficiency will have reduced impact on the environment and lower costs for farmers over conventional fertilisers, bringing significant potential benefit for both agriculture and the environment,” says Professor Mike McLaughlin, Head of the University of Adelaide’s Fertiliser Technology Research Centre at the Waite campus.
“Our research found that loading copper and zinc micronutrients onto graphene oxide sheets was an effective way to supply micronutrients to plants. It also increased the strength of the fertiliser granules for better transport and spreading ability.”
Professor Dusan Losic, nanotechnology leader in the University’s School of Chemical Engineering and Director of the University’s Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Hub for Graphene Enabled Industry Transformation, says: “Graphene is a novel new material only discovered in 2004 and has incredible properties, including a very high surface area, strength and adaptability to bind to different nutrients. We started exciting research on a broad range of applications of graphene four years ago – this is the first time graphene has been developed as a carrier for fertiliser nutrients.”
Learn more: Graphene promise for more efficient fertilisers
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