In this paper gelatin beads reinforced with natural hemp hurd have been produced as pH sensitive devices for the release of eugenol, as green pesticide. The composites beads, with a mean diameter of about 1 mm, were obtained by polymer droplet gelation in sunflower oil. Thermal properties were evaluated showing no noticeable difference after the introduction of hemp hurd. Barrier properties demonstrated an improvement of hydrophobization. The introduction of 5% w/w of hemp hurd led to a reduction of sorption coefficient of about 85% compared to unloaded gelatin beads. Besides, the diffusion coefficient decreased, introducing 5% w/w of hemp hurd, from 8.91 × 10−7 to 0.77 × 10−7 cm2/s. Swelling and dissolution phenomena of gelatin beads were studied as function of pH. The swelling of gelatin beads raised as pH increased up to 2.3 g/g, 9.1 g/g and 27.33 g/g at pH 3, 7 and 12, respectively. The dissolution rate changed from 0.034 at pH 3 to 0.077 h−1 at pH 12. Release kinetics of eugenol at different pH conditions were studied. The released eugenol after 24 h is 98%, 91%, 81 and 63% w/w (pH 3), 87%, 62%, 37 and 32 wt% (pH 7) and 81%, 68%, 60 and 52 wt% (pH 12) for unloaded gelatin beads and gelatin beads with 1%, 3 and 5% of hemp hurd, respectively. The eugenol release behavior was demonstrated to be highly sensitive to the pH release medium, which allows to tune such devices as green pesticide release systems in soils with different level of acidity/basicity.
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