ALKALI LIGNIN-BASED HYDROGEL: SYNTHESIS, CHARACTERIZATION, AND IMPACT ON SOIL WATER RETENTION FROM NEAR SATURATION TO DRYNESS

Toby A. Adjuik, Sue E. Nokes, Michael D. Montross, Ole Wendroth, Riley Walton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Superabsorbent polymers (hydrogels) have been proposed as soil amendments to increase the amount of plantavailable water in the soil. Synthetic hydrogels have been widely investigated for use in agriculture. Due to increasing environmental concerns related to synthetic hydrogels, naturally sourced hydrogels are of interest because of their potential for increased biodegradability and biocompatibility. A lignin-based hydrogel was synthesized for this study, and its swelling properties and water absorption capacity were determined. The hydrogel was characterized using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, and gas pycnometry. A hanging water column, pressure plate apparatus, and dew point potentiometer were used to measure the soil water retention curve from saturation to ovendryness for silt loam and loamy fine sand soils after amendment with the lignin-based hydrogel. Results showed a maximum swelling ratio in deionized water of 2013% of the hydrogel's original mass, 1092% in tap water, and 825% in a 0.9% NaCl solution. The FTIR spectra of the hydrogel showed the presence of O-H bonds from the lignin structure, which renders the hydrogel reactive to a crosslinker and forms insoluble bonds, thereby allowing the hydrogel to swell when exposed to water. SEM images of the lignin hydrogels indicate large macropores, which allowed for water absorption. Applying hydrogels significantly increased the soil's water-holding capacity at 0.3% (w/w) treatment. Hydrogel treatment significantly increased water retention at saturation or near saturation by 0.12 cm3 cm-3 and at field capacity by 0.08 cm3 cm-3 for silt loam soil at 1% (w/w) treatment compared to the control treatment with no added lignin hydrogel. Hydrogel application increased water retention over the range of the soil water retention curve from -3 to -15,000 cm for the loamy fine sand soil at 1% (w/w) treatment. However, the application of lignin-based hydrogel did not affect plant available water capacity (PAWC) in either soil tested. These results serve as preliminary evidence upon which further lignin-based hydrogel amendment studies could be built by testing higher concentrations of hydrogel in the soil.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-98
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the ASABE
Volume66
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Keywords

  • Lignin
  • Soil water retention curve
  • Super absorbent polymers
  • Swelling capacity
  • Water retention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Food Science
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science
  • Biomedical Engineering

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