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IIT Madras develops eco-friendly and superabsorbent Diapers

The superabsorbent biodegradable diapers have been made of citric acid, urea and is a result of the latest innovation and research by IIT Madras

July 31, 2018
The use of Disposable Diapers in baby care is becoming common in urban areas. Diapers contain superabsorbent polymers (SAPs), which can absorb and retain a large quantity of liquid. However, they are made of synthetic materials that are non-biodegradable. Safe disposal of used diapers is thus becoming a major environmental problem.
In order to address the issue, scientists from the Department of Chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras have developed a biodegradable super-absorbent polymer using chitosan (a kind of sugar extracted from seafood waste), citric acid and urea. This super-absorbent has capacity – it can absorb 1,250g of water for each gram of the polymer.
The researchers used chitosan obtained from seafood waste source, and two easily available sustainable chemicals – citric acid and urea. Water absorbing material from a commercial baby diaper was used for comparison. The materials (chitosan, citric acid and urea) were mixed in a weight ratio of 1:2:2. The mixture was heated in an aqueous medium to 100º C in a closed container to form a highly viscous and porous, cross-linked gel denoted as CHCAUR (from chitosan, citric acid and urea). The gel was then dried to remove residual solvent and powdered for further study.
“In the present form, our material does not absorb water as rapidly as commercially available diaper materials, but it is biodegradable unlike fully synthetic commercial superabsorbent,” explained DrRaghavachariDhamodharan, the lead researcher. He described the synthesis process as eco-friendly since water has been used in experiments instead of any synthetic chemicals.
Researchers feel it can also find applications in agriculture, especially as a controlled releasing agent of micro and macronutrients to the soil. The study also mentions that when applied to soil, CHCAUR was found to decrease water evaporation rate significantly. The research team included Prof RaghavachariDhamodharan, Abathodharanan Narayanan, RavishankarKartik, and Elanchezhian Sangeetha (Indian Institute of Technology, Madras). The results of the study have been published in journal Carbohydrate Polymers.
Article Courtesy: India Science Wire