Udayavni Special

Scientists find a way to recycle diapers


Team Udayavani, Aug 1, 2021, 10:53 AM IST

Source: unsplash

Baby diapers are made up of non-biodegradable materials and end up polluting the environment. A group of scientists at the University of Michigan has come up with a method to untangle the absorbent polymers and recycle them into gooey adhesives that can be used in sticky notes and bandages.

The study is published in the Nature Communications and includes, Anne McNeil, professor of chemistry and macromolecular science and engineering, and Takunda Chazovachii, who graduated from the University of Michigan with his doctoral degree in polymer chemistry. The group of scientists developed a three-step process that turns superabsorbent polymers into reusable adhesives. The press release mentions that the method used to recycle the used diapers needed to be energy-efficient and able to be deployed on an industrial scale.

Chazovachii in a press statement said that the superabsorbent polymers are particularly difficult to recycle because they resist degradation and permanently retain water. It further mentioned that the superabsorbent polymers and adhesives are both derived from acrylic acid. Considering this common denominator, the researchers were inspired to take on chemical recycling.

McNeil, the paper’s corresponding author, said that the superabsorbent materials made of polymers resemble a loosely woven fishing net. In case of this, the polymers had a crosslink every 2,000 units instead of a honeycomb pattern.

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