Farmers and gardeners are often trying to find ways to alter soils so that they can be more suitable for retaining water and nutrients. One way to alter soils is through polymer soil, which is an engineered kind of soil that uses different chemicals to treat soil and change it. Some polymers increase soil retention, while other polymers increase water infiltration.
Polymer soil can be water-repellant. Water-repellant soil can be placed beneath the soil that the plants have established their roots in, which can be beneficial in desert environments, according to Free Patents Online. This feature is helpful for water retention, since areas with very little water and very loose sand will experience very rapid water drainage. The water retention needs to be at a rate of five to 30 minutes so that the water remains in the soil long enough to be absorbed through the plant's roots, but not so long that the water damages the plant's roots or causes root rot. The substance that encourages water retention is polymeric hydrogen siloxane. This polymer contains volatile compounds such as ethanol, methanol, acetone and ethyl acetate, according to Applied Polymer Science.
Liquid Carrier Features
A liquid carrier made out of water or an organic solvent must be present in the invention. The organic solvent is made out of alkanes, halogenated hydrocarbons, ketons and alkyl acetates, according to Free Patents Online. But usually water is used.
Another kind of polymer is a chitosan polymer that comes from sea shells. This sea shell-based polymer is less toxic than synthetic polymers, according to the University of Wisconsin. Chitosan is made out of D-glucosamine and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine. Sea shells that contain chitin can be subjected to deacetylation. In addition to slowing down water drainage, the chitosan is also able to clot blood, so it is frequently used in bandages, according to 3D Chem. Plants that absorb chitosan into their roots grow faster and are also able to protect themselves from fungi attacking their roots. Experiments conducted by the University of Wisconsin found that the chitosan is effective in minimizing soil erosion until plants are able to establish ground cover and prevent soil erosion themselves.
Yes, polymer soil is being used as a treatment to prevent soil erosion. High-molecular-weight polyacrylamide reduces soil erosion by 95 percent, according to the University of Hawaii. These polymer soils also improve the infiltration of water into the soil.
Polyacrylamide polymer also helps harmful bacteria retain in soils. Wastewater drained into the soil contains harmful bacteria such as E. Coli that can get trapped in soils with polymers.