Renewable Farming

Why WakeUP Summer translocates more nutrients into crops than ordinary surfactants

Today as we packaged some samples of various WakeUP solutions for further laboratory testing, the idea hit us: Most farmers who use wetting agents don’t see what happens when those products blend with water. Water’s reaction with WakeUP Summer is far different from most surfactants. There are hundreds of agricultural surfactants and spray “adjuvants,” but not many of them build micelles in water.  

August 16, 2018 — Farmers typically add WakeUP Summer with water in a spray tank where they can’t see how WakeUP transforms clear water into colloidal micelles. Those micelles — clusters of water molecules surrounding a WakeUP colloid — turn the water milky, as you see in the photos below. 

We always recommend that you blend WakeUP Summer with at least a third of your spray water first, and then add your micronutrients, NPK or chemicals after the micelles are formed. This is easy to do whether you’re using an induction system or pouring products into the spray tank.

Each micelle has a negative ionic charge which lightly chelates, or bonds with, the positive charge in your nutrient mix or crop protection products. If you’re using a suspended non-soluble powder like humates or zeolite, WakeUP Summer will help keep the fine particles in suspension. This combination of water, WakeUP and foliar nutrient payload then flows smoothly over leaf surfaces and penetrates quickly into crop metabolism. WakeUP reduces water’s surface tension, cleanses the waxy leaf cuticle and serves as a penetrant. 

Water sample with clear water, and three others with varied concentrations of WakeUP added.
Our usual recommendation is one ounce of WakeUP Summer per two gallons of water, or a ratio of 1:256.

The water’s milky appearance results from formation of billions of water micelles per ounce of spray solution. Since every micelle — a cluster of 20 to 100 water molecules — is hungry for any positive ion, each micelle latches onto the positive ions in your manganese, zinc, phosphorus or hydrocarbon chemical.

Most WakeUP colloids, which are negatively charged, have a diameter of less than one nanometer — one billionth of a meter. The resulting combination of a water micelle clinging to a nutrient has a diameter on the order of two to five nanometers, depending on the molecular length of the chemicals you’re spraying. Each cluster repels those around it, so the stickiness of your spray solution is sharply reduced even after the nutrient payload is absorbed into the crop’s phloem circulation system and pumped toward the cells that will metabolize the nutrients. 

Size matters. Tiny, non-sticky nutrient packages of five nanometers or less flow easily through the phloem tubes and sieve plates in crops to reach growing points and grain fill. For comparison, your red blood cells are disk-shaped, about 8 micrometers across. White blood cells are more than twice that size. So nutrient packages carried by WakeUP Summer are truly tiny, capable of moving from leaves to roots or fruit easily.

The electron microscope photo below was made by cutting across phloem tubes of various types of plants at the point where sieve plates occur. The sieve plates are perforated with tiny holes called pores, which can expand or shrink to moderate the flow of plant sap. Note that the scale is micrometers, or a millionth of a meter. That’s a thousand times larger than a nanometer, which is a billionth of a meter. 

Cross-sections of various types of phloem tubes. They can range in size by species, and expand or contract under the plant's enzyme signals.
Cross-sections of various types of phloem tubes. They can range in size by species,
and expand or contract under the plant’s enzyme signals.

You can see why it’s important for a “carrier” of foliar nutrients to have a tiny size. The sieve plates of these plants have pores of just a few micrometers across. When a nutrient molecule reaches its destination — a cell where it’s needed for metabolic energy — it faces another barrier. It must penetrate into the cell through a microtubule, which is the pipeline transmission system into the interior workings of each cell. The microtubules are so tiny that some of the larger nutrient molecules and their water micelle carrier probably must enter virtually single file. Plant physiologists have done a dazzling job of seeing and describing plant structure, but the whole story of what creates order and enzyme signaling throughout the plant is far from completely understood.

Our approach is to help ease natural plant processes, and not introduce any foreign toxins such as surfactants built from petrochemicals. That’s why we manufacture WakeUP formulations only with plant-derived alcohols, oils and other extracts. 

Laser beam reflects from carbon colloids
suspended in WakeUP concentrate

Here’s how you can get an indication that WakeUP is actually a suspension of teeny carbon-based colloids in a liquid plasma: Put some WakeUP concentrate in a clear container and shine a laser beam through the liquid. The laser beam will reflect from the solid colloids. A true solution, or water, will have a nearly invisible trace of the beam resulting only from impurities suspended in the liquid.

The negatively charged carbon colloids are hungry for water, attracting the slightly positive hydrogen ions of water molecules around each carbon colloid. This creates a little sphere of water molecules which scientists call a micelle.

Some companies who’ve created colloidal surfactants add water after manufacturing, then sell the diluted product. We don’t use water in our formulations. One way you can test a surfactant for water content: Pour a sample of the surfactant into a clear plastic cup, place this sample in your freezer and leave it there 24 hours. If the product freezes, that’s an indication it’s diluted with water, or is not a colloidal product. We’ve never been able to find the freezing point of WakeUP concentrate, even after leaving samples out overnight in minus 30 F. weather. You can store WakeUP jugs or totes in your unheated machine shed all winter without reducing its effectiveness. You can also store it indefinitely, year after year. It will darken with age and have a more tart nitrogen aroma, but may actually become more effective with time. We’ve checked some 8-year-old WakeUP and it still does the job.

This is an artistic schematic of a WakeUP micelle, showing water molecules clustering around a negatively charged colloid. We’re not sure there’s a way to measure exactly how many water molecules cling to each WakeUP colloid. There are sure to be variations in the size of each colloid. Electron microscope studies indicate their usual size is less than one nanometer. Some measurements have suggested the average size is 0.8 nanometers, or 8 Ångström units.

For reference, here are metric definitions of the teeny measures of the metric system:

An Ångström (symbol: Å) is one-tenth of a nanometer.

A nanometer (symbol: nm) is one-thousandth of a micrometer.

A micrometer (symbol: μm) is one-thousandth of a millimeter.

A millimeter (symbol: mm) is one-thousandth of a meter.



And if you’re really picky, a picometer (symbol: pm) is one-thousandth of a nanometer. That’s one-trillionth of a meter. The main point to remember is that WakeUP changes the physics of spray solutions by re-orienting the ionic charge of water molecules. Water, H2O, is slightly dipolar (the two hydrogen atoms make one end of the molecule a tad more positive than the end with the single oxygen atom). Thus, the exterior of each WakeUP-laced water micelle is negatively charged. Result: The milky water in your spray tank becomes slippery with a very low surface tension compared with ordinary water. 

When you add WakeUP Summer to the solution in your sprayer tank, your computer-controlled sprayer system may adjust the spray pressure downward two or three pounds per square inch, compared to the same solution without WakeUP in it. There’s less resistance going through sprayer orifices, and the flow control mechanism is adjusting for that. There’s a little added benefit to that, in addition to greatly improved leaf coverage: reducing spray drift.