The research, developed by a team from the Coimbra Chemistry Centre of the Faculty of Science and Technology of the UC, aims to solve the contamination of the soils caused by the use of the insecticide imidacloprid.

According to a statement from the UC, it is a product "highly soluble in water and persistent in the soil, which can easily contaminate the soil and water resources near agricultural areas reaching non-target organisms, namely birds, bees, earthworms and mammals."

"To remove this pesticide effectively, a new approach to the synthesis and characterisation of new complex molecular structures, formed from the aggregation of simpler molecules, which unite cooperatively through weak chemical bonds and which includes removal studies, was used," explained researchers Gianluca Utzeri and Tânia Firmino Cova, co-authors of the study.

According to the scientists, "this approach is combined with molecular modelling and simulation to solve the problem of water contamination by pesticides."

"The combination of experimental and computational studies allowed us to explain, at the molecular level, the role of crosslinking agents in the efficiency of imidacloprid removal by nanosponges."

According to the researchers, the developed method can also "be applied to capture other pesticides and organic pollutants from the water and also contribute to the control of environmental pollution through targeted and controlled remediation processes."