Tomsk Polytechnic University researchers are improving the technology for obtaining mineral fertilizers by modifying the clay minerals glauconite and smectite, reports official website of the university.
The developed smart fertilizers are environmentally friendly, effective when applied to the soil and have a “targeted” effect. Previously, scientists have proven the possibility of using mineral nanocomposites based on mixtures of traditional nutrients with glauconite and smectite as non-traditional additives. Now they are looking for the best ways to introduce useful components into the crystal structure of minerals to increase the effectiveness of smart fertilizers.
The study of glauconite and smectite as useful materials for the agricultural industry has been carried out by specialists from the TPU School of Natural Resources Engineering for eight years. This led to the creation of a new scientific direction in the field of non-traditional types of mineral fertilizers, which is based on an interdisciplinary approach to the use of clay materials in agriculture.
“Research on glauconite and smectite as the basis for composite fertilizers is very promising. Gluaconite has a high potassium content, and by adding nitrogen and phosphorus to it, minerals can be obtained that contain the three main nutrients for plant growth and development. An important property of many clay minerals is their good swelling capacity, which can provide high-quality encapsulation of nutrients into their structure. Due to this, "smart" fertilizers, unlike traditional ones, do not lead to an excess of nitrogen compounds that adversely affect the environment. That is, they are more environmentally friendly,” explains Maxim Rudmin, Associate Professor of the Department of Geology at TPU.
To obtain smart fertilizers, the activation method was used in various types of mills. In the course of the study, scientists selected the optimal parameters for the ratio of mineral and nutrient, as well as the time and type of activation to obtain composites with the required properties.
“We considered glauconite primarily as a source of potassium for plants. The distinctive granular form of the mineral contributes to the improvement of the physical-mechanical and physico-chemical properties of the soil. In particular, this avoids an increase in its clay content. Smectite is a moisture-absorbing mineral, its modification will increase the "absorption" of the nutrient for delivery to plants without deteriorating the filtration properties of the soil. To do this, you need to work with the morphology of minerals. At the same time, it is important to make sure that when useful elements are introduced into the crystal structure of the mineral, it does not collapse, ”says Maxim Rudmin.
It is assumed that modified "smart" fertilizers will have a controlled rate of nitrogen release.
As part of the study, it is also planned to identify and test multi-level principles for the creation of multifunctional fertilizers from glauconite and smectite. Achieving these results will rely on an understanding of mineralogical features and structural transformations at various stages of a potential production cycle.