Plasma coating of fertilisers
Study advanced plasma polymer coatings for slow nutrient release fertilisers in this honours project based at the Fertiliser Technology Research Centre.
Fertilisers are indispensable to agriculture and essential for maintaining adequate food production. Since the 1940s, development of slow-release fertilisers (SRFs) has aimed to optimise the release of nutrients from fertilisers to match plant nutritional needs throughout the growing season.
Coatings can be applied to fertiliser granules to slow nutrient release; however, new coating technologies are be needed to keep up with increased agricultural production while reducing harmful environmental impacts.
A promising idea is to deposit advanced coatings on fertiliser granules by plasma polymerisation. This technique has many advantages: It is atom-efficient, allows for coatings to be applied dry and inexpensively, and it is a scalable technology. These reasons have allowed plasma technologies to be widely implemented in large-scale industries such as medical device manufacture, automotive and semiconductor industries.
Therefore, for industrial fertiliser production, deposition of thin film coatings on granules to make SRFs could be a game changer. In this project, the student will develop SRF coatings for fertiliser granules using different plasma polymers.
The chemical properties of the coatings, such as wettability, can be manipulated by changing the chemical composition of the coatings. The release kinetics can be similarly controlled by applying coatings of different thickness.
Training will be provided in coating deposition as well as characterisation of the physical properties of the coatings using instrumental analysis.
You will gain experience with instrumental analysis for analysing the physical and chemical properties of the coatings. Additionally, you will evaluate fertiliser environmental performance.
Co-supervisors: Dr Bryan Coad | Dr Fien Degryse
Research area: Fertiliser Technology Research Centre, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine
Recommended honours enrolment: Honours in Agricultural Science or Honours in Chemistry