Tag Archives: Veranja Karunaratne

Nanoparticle fertilizer and dreams of a new ‘Green’ revolution

There were hints even while it was happening that the ‘Green Revolution’ of the 1960s was not all it was touted to be. (For those who haven’t come across the term before, the Green Revolution was a better way to farm, a way that would feed everyone on earth. Or, that was the dream.)

Perhaps this time, they’ll be more successful. From a Jan. 15, 2017 news item on ScienceDaily, which offers a perspective on the ‘Green Revolution’ that differs from mine,

The “Green Revolution” of the ’60s and ’70s has been credited with helping to feed billions around the world, with fertilizers being one of the key drivers spurring the agricultural boom. But in developing countries, the cost of fertilizer remains relatively high and can limit food production. Now researchers report in the journal ACS Nano a simple way to make a benign, more efficient fertilizer that could contribute to a second food revolution.

A Jan. 25, 2017 American Chemical Society news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, expands on the theme,

Farmers often use urea, a rich source of nitrogen, as fertilizer. Its flaw, however, is that it breaks down quickly in wet soil and forms ammonia. The ammonia is washed away, creating a major environmental issue as it leads to eutrophication of water ways and ultimately enters the atmosphere as nitrogen dioxide, the main greenhouse gas associated with agriculture. This fast decomposition also limits the amount of nitrogen that can get absorbed by crop roots and requires farmers to apply more fertilizer to boost production. However, in low-income regions where populations continue to grow and the food supply is unstable, the cost of fertilizer can hinder additional applications and cripple crop yields. Nilwala Kottegoda, Veranja Karunaratne, Gehan Amaratunga and colleagues wanted to find a way to slow the breakdown of urea and make one application of fertilizer last longer.

To do this, the researchers developed a simple and scalable method for coating hydroxyapatite (HA) nanoparticles with urea molecules. HA is a mineral found in human and animal tissues and is considered to be environmentally friendly. In water, the hybridization of the HA nanoparticles and urea slowly released nitrogen, 12 times slower than urea by itself. Initial field tests on rice farms showed that the HA-urea nanohybrid lowered the need for fertilizer by one-half. The researchers say their development could help contribute to a new green revolution to help feed the world’s continuously growing population and also improve the environmental sustainability of agriculture.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Urea-Hydroxyapatite Nanohybrids for Slow Release of Nitrogen by Nilwala Kottegoda, Chanaka Sandaruwan, Gayan Priyadarshana, Asitha Siriwardhana, Upendra A. Rathnayake, Danushka Madushanka Berugoda Arachchige, Asurusinghe R. Kumarasinghe, Damayanthi Dahanayake, Veranja Karunaratne, and Gehan A. J. Amaratunga. ACS Nano, Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.6b07781 Publication Date (Web): January 25, 2017

Copyright © 2017 American Chemical Society

This paper is open access.

Sri Lanka’s nano

Carol Aloysius’ May 27, 2012 article for Sri Lanka’s The Nation newspaper highlights both the country’s nanotechnology’s efforts and one of its leading nanoscientists, Prof Veranja Karunaratne,

Five years ago, a unique initiative was launched through the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (SLINTEC). The Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) which is a public-private partnership aimed at providing platform research solutions based on nanotechnology to the Sri Lankan industries has not only attracted global recognition, it has earned the man responsible for driving it to its current global status a coveted award from the French government.

“The vision of NNI is to facilitate development and make Sri Lanka an industrial power in order to enable the country to emerge from poverty by infusing nanotechnology based innovations through research and development utilizing local raw materials, resources and talent. In order to fast-tract the NNI, the Government proposed the setting up of SLINTEC, the first ever Government funded start-up research company,” says Prof Veranja Karunaratne.

A fortnight ago, on May 11, Prof Karunaratne who is a Senior Professor in the Department of Chemistry, University of Peradeniya, and for the last few years, Science Team Leader, Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (SLINTEC), was conferred the distinction of Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes Académiques, in recognition of his personal involvement in the promotion of French language and culture in Sri Lanka.

Aloysius’ article goes on to discuss some of Sri Lanka’s NNI initiatives and Karunaratne’s hopes for the country’s future,

SLINTEC which started research in August 2009, thus far, has applied for five patents at the United States Patent Office to cover the innovations for its joint venture partners, he notes. “Two of the patents pertained to the slow release nanofertilizer formulations which release nitrogen to the soil in slow, sustained manner. These two patents attracted the attention of Nagarjuna Fertilizer and Chemicals Limited (NFCL) a global leader in the manufacture of fertilizer, and in a landmark scientific development, SLINTEC entered into a strategic collaboration with NFCL of Hyderabad, India, to develop the next generation of nanotechnology based plant fertilizer solutions.

In the area of value addition to Sri Lankan natural resources, SLINTEC entered into an agreement with Laughs Gas (Pvt) Ltd. to build a pilot plant to convert Ilmenite to Titanium Dioxide and nano-Titanium Dioxide. This agreement paves the way to the commercial production of Titanium Dioxide from the high purity Ilmentite ore whose value addition had remained elusive during the past decades while Sri Lanka exported sand to foreign countries.

The whole rationale behind this concept, is for SLINTEC to take the nation from, being   commodity sellers to a Smart Nation – a nation that generates and sells technology, he explains. [emphasis mine] He is convinced that this will happen in the near future, where Sri Lanka will be on par with other developed nations.

I think more than one Canadian can empathize with the desire to move your nation awary from being a commodity seller.