Muchun Liu, Pierre-Eric Millard, Henning Urch, Ophelie Zeyons, Douglas Findley, Rupert Konradi, Benedetto Marelli
There is a compelling need across several industries to substitute non-degradable, intentionally added microplastics with biodegradable alternatives. Nonetheless, stringent performance criteria in actives’ controlled release and manufacturing at scale of emerging materials hinder the replacement of polymers used for microplastics fabrication with circular ones. Here, the authors demonstrate that active microencapsulation in a structural protein such as silk fibroin can be achieved by modulating protein protonation and chain relaxation at the point of material assembly. Silk fibroin micelles’ size is tuned from several to hundreds of nanometers, enabling the manufac-turing—by retrofitting spray drying and spray freeze drying techniques—of micro capsules with tunable morphology and structure, that is, hollow-spongy, hollow-smooth, hollow crumpled matrices, and hollow crumpled multi-domain. Microcapsules degradation kinetics and sustained release of soluble and insoluble payloads typically used in cosmetic and agriculture applications are controlled by modulating fibroin’s beta-sheet content from 20% to near 40%. Ultraviolet-visible studies indicate that burst release of a commonly used herbicide (i.e., saflufenacil) significantly decreases from 25% to 0.8% via silk fibroin microencapsulation. As a proof-of-concept for agrochemicals applications, a 6-day greenhouse trial demonstrates that saflufenacil delivered on corn plants via silk microcapsules reduces crop injury when compared to the non-encapsulated version.
Agrochemicals, controlled release, microcapsules, microplastics, vitamin c, silk