493. Sustainable Soil Additives for Water and Micronutrient Supply: Swelling and Chelating Properties of Polyaspartic Acid Hydrogels Utilizing Newly Developed Crosslinkers

Youssef Hafidi, Hicham El Hatka, Dominik Schmitz, Manuel Krauss, Jürgen Pettrak, Markus Biel, and Najim Ittobane, Gels, (2024), DOI: 10.3390/gels10030170

Drought and water shortage are serious problems in many arid and semi-arid regions. This problem is getting worse and even continues in temperate climatic regions due to climate change. To address this problem, the use of biodegradable hydrogels is increasingly  important for the application as water-retaining additives in soil. Furthermore, efficient (micro-)nutrient supply can be provided by the use of tailored hydrogels. Biodegradable polyaspartic acid (PASP) hydrogels with different available (1,6-hexamethylene diamine (HMD) and L-lysine (LYS)) and newly developed crosslinkers based on diesters of glycine (GLY) and (di-)ethylene glycol (DEG and EG, respectively) were synthesized and characterized using Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and regarding their swelling properties (kinetic, absorbency under load (AUL)) as well as biodegradability of PASP hydrogel. Copper (II) and zinc (II), respectively, were loaded as micronutrients in two different approaches: in situ with crosslinking and subsequent loading of prepared hydrogels. The results showed successful syntheses of di-glycine-ester-based crosslinkers. Hydrogels with good water-absorbing properties were formed. Moreover, the developed crosslinking agents in combination with the specific reaction conditions resulted in higher water absorbency with increased crosslinker content used in synthesis (10% vs. 20%). The prepared hydrogels are candidates for water-storing soil additives due to the biodegradability of PASP, which is shown in an example. The incorporation of Cu(II) and Zn(II) ions can provide these micronutrients for plant growth.