Super Absorbent polymers are hydrogel materials with properties to retain & absorb water more than their mass & depending upon the liquid weight. Sanitary napkins, feminine hygiene products, baby diapers, adult incontinence products, etc., are a few products that use these superabsorbent polymers to contain fluids. Super Absorbent Polymers are classified principally into two types:
While the first one comprises sodium acrylate chains, the latter has a linear chain structure with super absorbent capabilities in materials. When people talk about super absorbent polymers, they often mean materials like sodium polyacrylate. These polymers are available easily in granular or fiber forms made up of several millions of identical sodium acrylate.
Production Process of Super Absorbent Polymers
Super Absorbent Polymers are produced mainly from materials like acrylic acid, sodium hydroxide, & water, along with a cross-linker to form the bridge to link the polymer chains. The solution of all these materials is combined & undergoes the process of polymerization to form the three-dimensional network of polymer chains and comes in the form of an aqueous gel. From here, the product is grounded & sieved into the desired sizes & can be further cross-linked to enhance the characteristics of the superabsorbent as per the required applications. France, Italy, the UK, Germany, & Spain, are among the largest consumers of super absorbent polymers across Europe due to the rapidly expanding packaging industry across these countries.
Key Applications in the Agriculture Sector
Due to the versatile properties of super absorbent polymers, they are swiftly gaining momentum across different industrial verticals with multiple applications. With their non-toxic, biodegradable, & biocompatible nature, these polymers are ideal for applications across food industries, medical textiles, feminine hygiene products, agriculture processes, fire-fighting, biosensors, thermal energy storage, & tissue engineering, among others. Among all the above applications, they are swiftly replacing conventional absorbent materials like cotton, paper, cloth, cellulose fiber, etc. As a result, the Global Super Absorbent Polymer Market can expect around 5% CAGR during 2021-26.
Additionally, the Agriculture sector is among the growing areas for the application of super absorbent polymers due to the increasing farming activities worldwide to suffice food requirements of the surging population. Super absorbent polymers are applied to crop roots to effectively enhance water utilization in agriculture crops while retaining moisture in the soil. These polymers are used extensively for benefits like water retention, absorption, & conservation of water. Their biodegradable & non-toxic nature further promotes their adoption across the agriculture sector to address concerns over environmental depletion & water scarcity.
Increasing Utilization in the Healthcare Sector
With escalating concerns over hygiene and the mounting consumer awareness about the benefits of using high-quality personal care products, the adoption of super absorbent polymers is increasing swiftly across the healthcare sector. The production of medical textiles like emergency bandages, surgical tapes, dressing materials, diapers, & sanitary napkins, among others, is also soaring the need for these materials owing to their properties like quickly absorbing blood, urine, & other liquids.
Moreover, several absorbent polymer producers are inclining toward enhancing the properties of these materials & expanding their application in the healthcare sector. It, in turn, is enabling them to take initiatives by conducting several research & development activities to bring innovations in superabsorbent polymers.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 1.3 million people die each year from road injuries. With such stats, the need for medical supplies is surging substantially worldwide. It, in turn, is positively influencing the demand for superabsorbent polymers for manufacturing medical textiles and suffice the supply requirements across the healthcare sector for operations & treatments.
Super Absorbent Polymers in Personal Care & Hygiene Products
The versatility of the Super Absorbent Polymers has widened its application across the different sectors, where personal care & hygiene products are increasingly adopting these materials. The quick absorption & perks of keeping the skin dry have gained its adoption in hygiene products like baby diapers & sanitary napkins & skincare products to retain moisture. As a result, with increasing comfort, the adoption of these polymers is escalating for personal care & hygiene applications.
Additionally, these polymers also bring advantages like avoiding skin irritations in diapers & sanitary napkins owing to their quick absorption of liquid & moisture, protecting the skin from bacteria. In fact, these polymers also enable in eliminating the spread of infections, as the superabsorbent polymer reduces the chances of leakage & eliminates the risk of mixing urine with fecal substances that can contaminate microorganisms & cause the spread of diseases.
With properties to absorb & retain a substantial amount of water than their masses, Super Absorbent Polymers are witnessing a wide adoption in numerous applications across different verticals. Hence, all the factors cited above indicate that superabsorbent polymers are anticipated to observe increasing attention by prominent companies and undergo rapid developments for their applications in new areas. Till then, agriculture, medical, personal hygiene, packaging, among others, would continue boosting the Global Super Absorbent Polymer Market over the coming years.