Super Absorbent Polymer (SAP) has been proved beneficial and accepted in hygiene and personal care sectors, and other industries such as medical, healthcare and agriculture. However, the global SAP market is likely to exhibit a sluggish growth at 3.9% CAGR during 2016 to 2020 as per a study by Persistence Market Research (PMR).
Highly saturated personal care market in developed economies is expected to impede the market growth. In addition, lack in availability and soaring prices of raw materials may hold a negative impact on the growth of the global super absorbent polymer market. Further, ever growing healthcare regulations is expected to be one of the prominent factors restraining the market growth in the near future. On the other hand, opportunities for market growth are set to create in developing economies of Asia Pacific as leading healthcare providers plan to expand their market across these regions in the upcoming years. Slight chances for market growth are perceived owing to increasing SAP applications as water conservation tools in agriculture and large scale farming.
Self-Healing Property of Super Absorbent Polymers
However super absorbent polymers offer several benefits which may accelerate its market growth, besides the restraining factors. They possess the potential of being used in self-healing concrete as a healing agent owing to their property of absorbing moisture from environment and capacity to promote autogenous healing. A challenge faced is SAP’s characteristic of blending water during concrete manufacturing, resulting in excessive volume of macro-pores in hardened concrete. To over this challenge, new SAP with high swelling & pH-sensitiveness were developed, tested within FP7 project HEALCON. Their self-healing performance was studied by water permeability test through water flow. SAP has rendered useful for a number of applications across various sectors such as oil drilling, pharmaceuticals, food packaging, horticulture, and so on.
A paper published in Pertanika JTAS (Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science) states the potential of super absorbent polymers to act as a soil conditioner and reduce irrigation needs by storing water & nutrients and releasing them at times of droughts. Considerable losses are incurred in agriculture at times of draught conditions. In addition, increasing population growth has driven more demand for water. This has necessitated water efficiency improvement for agricultural sector. Adoption of super absorbent polymers is likely to diminish the barriers related to water scarcity in agricultural sector, as they absorb & retain thousand times water compared to their size & weight.
Biodegradable Super Absorbent Polymers Introduced for Fighting Water Scarcity in Agriculture across SA
South Africa currently always has faced one of the worst droughts. This has resulted in threatening food security across this region. Super absorbent polymers relatively absorb 300 times liquid than their weight. When cross-linked with polymerization, water retaining hydrogels are formed acting as a water reservoir in the soil. However, these SAP are not biodegradable. They are unaffordable and consist large proportions of sodium hydroxide, acrylic acid, and other chemicals. Nirghin, a sixteen-year-old local student in Johannesburg, won Google Science Fair Community Impact Award for MEA (Middle East & Africa) by her submission, “No more thirsty crops”. Exploring an organic cross-linking procedure by utilizing UV light & heat, Nirghin developed a newer version of SAP that were biodegradable using orange & avocado peels. Agri SA had requested for more than $1 billion subsidies from government for helping farmers through this crisis. Nirghin’s innovate & relatively low-cost product could prove fruitful in assisting farmers.
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