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Targeted agrochemical delivery using smart nanoparticles for sustainable agriculture

Project Description

Huge amounts of agrochemicals, such as fertilisers and biostimulants, are applied to arable farmland each year to boost crop performance. Such chemicals are generally poorly utilised by the target crops, resulting in significant ‘wash-out’ into the environment. This represents not only a significant waste of resources, but is also a major cause of a range of downstream environmental issues. Precision application of agrochemicals would allow significant reduction of inputs with major benefits in terms of future food security and the environment.

This project will apply novel lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) capable of accommodating large cargo of agrochemicals and providing sustained release, as well as LNPs designed to respond to specific environmental cues and provide triggered release, to deliver agrochemicals to plants. These LNPs will establish a new way to efficiently deliver agrochemicals in a targeted way.

LNPs will be fabricated using microfluidic tools, characterised by Small Angle X-ray/ Neutron Scattering and cryo-TEM, and their cargo release efficiency will be determined by microscopy and spectroscopic methods. The behaviour (i.e. longevity, degradation, action) of LNPs in the field will then be tested in agricultural environments. Their effectiveness in slow and gated release, the promotion of favourable symbiotic associations and the subsequent crop growth promotion effects will be assessed through a series of experiments in simplified ecosystems at the newly established University Farm.

You are expected to hold a UK First class or 2.1 BSc Hons degree (or equivalent) in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Engineering, Materials Science or related discipline with a keen interest in biophysics, agrochemical delivery, plant science and interdisciplinary research. Experience in X-ray/ neutron scattering, electron microscopy, microfluidics or coding would be advantageous but not essential.

Funding Notes

This 3.5 years EPSRC DTP award will provide tuition fees (£4,500 for 2019/20), tax-free stipend at the UK research council rate (£15,009 for 2019/20), and a research training and support grant of £5,000.

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