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SCENARIO: Coatings for Agriculture: Food Security without a Microplastics Problem


Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

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Dr P Roth , Prof J Keddie , Dr Maya Al Sid Cheikh No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Guildford United Kingdom Agricultural Sciences Environmental Chemistry Other Soil Science

About the Project

Agricultural coatings are applied directly onto seeds and leaves to make pesticides and other active ingredients more effective, to increase crop yields, and to contribute to global food security. However, there are concerns that such coatings can form microplastics : microscopic polymeric particulates that can negatively affect marine food chains and that may transfer pathogens.

This project will develop biodegradable coatings for agriculture and investigate whether they can biodegrade without forming harmful microplastics. This interdisciplinary project will require the chemical synthesis of polymers, the casting and characterisation of coatings , and the synthesis of model microplastics. The polymer biodegradation will be analysed using a combination of analytic methods, including ellipsometry, dynamic light scattering, nanoparticle tracking analysis, optical/electron microscopy, and various NMR spectroscopic methods. Specifically, we aim to compare different types of established and novel polymers under identical conditions including simulated environments, and, working with a leading agricultural company, real soil samples. We expect that the project can provide clear guidelines on the future design of agricultural coatings that contribute to food security without posing a microplastics risk.

Peter Roth, Joe Keddie and Maya Al Sid Cheikh talk about this project on YouTube: https://youtu.be/jiZM0Lnag8M

Training opportunities:

This project includes training and mentoring in all associated chemical, physical, analytical, and environmental methods. The successful applicant will be part of the SCENARIO doctoral training partnership cohort and will have access to training and networking events. Funding is available to attend (international) conferences. The PhD student will also spend 3 months on an industrial placement with Syngenta.

Student profile

Applicants should hold or expect to gain a minimum of a 2:1 Bachelor Degree, Masters Degree with Merit, or equivalent in chemistry or a closely related subject area.

To apply, please follow the instructions at https://research.reading.ac.uk/scenario/apply/


Funding Notes

This project is potentially funded by the Scenario NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, subject to a competition to identify the strongest applicants.

The project has CASE funding from Syngenta.

Due to UKRI rules, the DTP can only fund a very limited number of international students. We will only consider applications from international students with an outstanding academic background placing them in the top 10% of their cohort.


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