Photoactive Polymers

PhD opportunity

Development of polymeric nano carriers in continuous flow for the controlled release of agrochemicals

project description

Background. In recent years, there has been major advances in the area of nanotechnology applied to agriculture and the environment. Nonetheless, many issues remain to be addressed for this technology to have a significant impact. Potentially, nanotechnology could sustainably support an increase in agricultural productivity, as needed by the predicted rise in the global population, while reducing the adverse impacts of agricultural practices on the environment and to human health. In this scenario, the encapsulation of bioactive compounds has shown very promising results in crop protection. Similarly, production of alternative systems based on nanotechnology could offer a safer alternative to pest control and reduce the environmental impacts of currently employed systems. The use of well-defined polymer nanocarriers can promote controlled release of bioactive compounds, e.g. pesticides, whilst reducing the amount of compound required to protect and to enhance the productivity of a given crop. To control loading of the bioactive agents and their subsequent release, it is paramount to develop synthetic strategies of well-defined polymeric nanocarriers whilst mitigating negative environmental impact.

Aim. The aim of this proposal is to combine expertise in polymer and nanoparticle synthesis, development of porous materials and advanced scattering techniques (i.e. neutron scattering) in order to improve and optimize desirable properties of bespoke nanocarriers as well as the controlled release of agrochemicals.

Methodology. Specifically, we wish to test whether biodegradable polymer nanocarriers of well-defined size can be prepared using state-of-the-art flow technology. Furthermore, structural characterisation using advanced scattering techniques as proposed here will allow us to optimise the properties of the nanocapsules and further control the release of biologically active compounds (herbicides and pesticides).

Collaboration. This PhD will further an existing collaboration with Dr Leonardo Fraceto University of São Paulo. Dr Fraceto has expertise in studying nanomaterials for agricultural and environmental applications particularly those related to the method in which these systems are applied, as well as providing information about concentration of the nanomaterials in field experiments.

institutional setting

The Institute of Chemical Sciences (ICS) is an excellent environment for PhD research, with a thriving community of academics, post-doctoral and PhD researchers spread across three sections: Molecular Chemistry, Materials Chemistry, and Dynamics and Structure. ICS also has many links to the other research institutes within the overall umbrella of the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, providing a strong interdisciplinary theme to our research. Heriot-Watt University occupies an attractive campus site on the outskirts of Edinburgh, with excellent public transport links to the centre of one of the Europe’s most exciting cities.

funding notes
You should have, or expect to receive, a First or 2:1 Class MChem degree in Chemistry, or equivalent in a relevant related subject. This project is funded by an EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), providing tuition fees and a stipend (approx. £14,500) for 3.5 years, and is only available to UK & EU nationals resident in the UK for the last 3 years.

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