Insect repelling foam plastics

By including insecticides in the manufacture of plastics, products can be made that offer a solution to the threatening effects of climate change.

AIMPLAS, which is a plastics technology centre based in Valencia in Spain, has been working with the University of Zaragoza and the locally based Inesfly Corporation on the development of a new generation of foam plastics with insecticide properties that help stop the spread of tropical diseases such as malaria, dengue-fever, Chagas disease and leishmania.

Until now the existence of insecticides in plastics was only possible by adding fillers (powder) and then limiting the final applications to items including mosquito nets, insect collars for pets, earmarks for cattle and anti-mosquito arm bands. The research being carried out by the consortium for the Inmaplesp project is going to make it possible to build insecticides into materials using microcapsules. The new technology protects the insecticide from potential degradation when the material is being processed, while allowing manipulation, and finally permitting inspection of the diffusion levels in the final product.

The technology for using microcapsules has already been successfully applied with paints and is now being extended to plastic matrices. In order to achieve this, the company has designed microcapsules containing various active ingredients with insect repellent properties.

Possible applications already anticipated for the foam plastic include the soles of sandals and also mats that repel mosquitoes and creeping insects known to spread disease. These developments could make an impact on Central Africa, the Middle East, Central America and countries in South America, but could also be beneficial in Europe, bearing in mind the consequences of climate change resulting in the appearance of subtropical insects such as the tiger mosquito in countries like Spain.