Andrea Ligocki

Dye Loading of and Release from Swelling Polymers for Agricultural Applications

To achieve the goal of eradicating hunger by 2030, it is necessary to improve crop production through sustainable and cost-effective solutions. Nanoparticles are increasingly being used to improve agricultural crop production because they can promote nutrient absorption, lower soil and water contamination, and increase the plant’s resilience in non-ideal environments. Polymeric nanoparticles like poly-2-(diethylamino)ethyl methacrylate (pDEAEMA) have extensively been used for drug delivery in medical applications. However, this work aims to use pDEAEMA to deliver beneficial cargo to plants. pDEAEMA is a pH-responsive polymer that reversibly swells in acidic media, a property that can serve as a cargo release mechanism, and is synthesized via a free-radical polymerization. Dynamic light scattering was used to determine the polymer nanoparticle size as well as the polymer’s swelling behavior. Herein, we present the optimization of pDEAEMA loading using rhodamine-B isothiocyanate as model fluorescent cargo by taking advantage of the polymer’s swelling and deswelling mechanism. A plate reader was used to determine the fluorescence of the dye-loaded pDEAEMA system, and confocal microscopy images were taken to confirm the uptake and release. Preliminary results show that the polymer takes up the dye of interest and future experiments will focus on the loading and release of beneficial cargo.