Nanocomposite manufacturing process for controlled release is patented

Nanostructure obtained in this process is capable of releasing in a controlled or slow manner various compounds for agricultural use such as drugs, fertilizers, pesticides, pheromones or combinations thereof

12.09.2023 | 14:12 (UTC -3)
Embrapa Agroenergy
Image of a trap for capturing insects prepared with the nanocomposite and pheromone; photo: Silvio Vaz Jr
Image of a trap for capturing insects prepared with the nanocomposite and pheromone; photo: Silvio Vaz Jr

The National Institute of Industrial Property (Inpi) granted the patent application for the “Production Process of Calcium Carbonate and Kraft Lignin Nanocomposite from Gaseous Emissions”, developed by Embrapa Agroenergia (DF). The Letter Patent was issued on August 8 by INPI, granting the Company the exclusivity to commercially exploit the invention for a period of 20 years.

The newly protected process contributes to the mitigation of greenhouse gases, as it uses carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to produce a nanocomposite of calcium carbonate and kraft lignin. CO2 emissions from a thermoelectric plant can be captured, for example, making it environmentally sustainable.

The product obtained is a nanocomposite that can fix agrochemical molecules on its surface, while lignin, a natural macromolecule present in plants, is used to improve this fixation. It can serve as a vehicle – or carrier -- for various products such as pharmaceuticals, for the treatment of animals; fertilizers applied to the soil, or insecticides, in order to protect crops. With the advantage of providing slow, controlled release or both. This means that the molecule contained in it is released little by little, ensuring a longer lasting action and avoiding losses.

AgriCarbono Project

The invention is the result of the AgriCarbono project, which began in 2019 and ended in the first half of 2023. The purpose of the research was to use carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce supports for the controlled release of agrochemical molecules. In the work, semiochemicals (chemical substances used in communication between living beings in nature, such as insects, and used in pest management) were tested as the main agrochemicals.

“The objective was to increase the effectiveness of application, through controlled release, and reduce environmental pollution, inherent to the use of conventional agrochemicals”, says Embrapa researcher Silvio Vaz Júnior, leader of the project.

The AgriCarbono project received resources from the R&D Program of the National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel) and the Eletrobrás subsidiary Companhia de Geração Térmica de Energia Elétrica (CGTEE). The project also included the partnership of Embrapa Genetic Resources and Biotechnology researchers Maria Carolina Blassioli Moraes, Raul Alberto Laumann and Miguel Borges, and Embrapa Agroenergia scholarship holder Érica Gonçalves Gravina.

“At Embrapa Agroenergia, the development of the nanocomposite and the formulation that was prepared using this nanocomposite and the semiochemical was carried out. We passed it on to the researchers at Embrapa Genetic Resources, who carried out the validation in the laboratory. It was seen that it had potential for use in the field and, then, they carried out validation in the field, with various types of insects”, reports Vaz Jr.

Green Patents

The patent application was requested via the priority green technology process, through the Green Patents program, which guaranteed agility in granting. According to INPI, the Green Patents program aims to contribute to the fight against global climate change and aims to accelerate the examination of patent applications related to technologies aimed at the environment.

Vaz Jr. explains that the technological asset was included in the Green Patents program because the technology allows the decarbonization of thermoelectric energy generation, through the capture and use of CO2. Additionally, the technology contributes to more sustainable agriculture, due to the slow or controlled release of semiochemicals for integrated pest management. Using this technology, it is possible to reduce the amount of pesticides applied, especially insecticides, which are used on crops, contributing to better environmental quality.

According to the researcher, the patented process and product directly benefit thermoelectric plants and also agriculture. “The production process of calcium carbonate and kraft lignin nanocomposite is related to the use of gaseous CO2 emissions and, thus, contributes to reducing global warming by mitigating greenhouse gases by helping the decarbonization of the electricity sector”, details the researcher.

Partnership with the private sector

The scientist explains that a granted patent adds value to the technological asset in a negotiation. Focusing on the thermoelectric and agrochemicals market (agricultural pesticides, for example), the search for partners can begin with a view to scaling the asset until its adoption by the production sector.

“The patent protects the technology, giving its holder the right to prevent third parties, without their consent, from inappropriately disposing of it. Therefore, when the technological asset is patented, its value increases, which strengthens negotiations with partners”, explains Embrapa researcher Émerson Leo Schultz, a specialist in industrial property.

With the patent granted, Embrapa Agroenergia will seek partners to develop the asset and, thus, advance on the TRL/MRL (Technology Readiness Levels/Manufacturing Readiness Levels) scale, as explained by Deputy Head of Technology Transfer Patrícia Abdelnur. “Technology scaling is very important to insert the asset into the market, but to advance from pilot scale (TRL6) to industrial scale (TRL9) we need industrial partners”, declares Abdelnur.

Companies interested in co-developing technology can learn about the opportunities that Embrapa Agroenergia offers to form partnerships with the production sector by contacting the Citizen Assistance Service (SAC).

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