What are Super Absorbent Polymers?

super absorbent polymers solidificationSuper absorbent polymer crystals or sodium polyacrylate, sometimes called super absorbent polymer balls, water absorbing crystals, slush powder or SAP, have numerous practical applications. Diaper manufacturers use SAP as the solidification medium in the products. Hospitals utilize them to solidify and dispose of bio-hazardous waste in suction canisters. Energy companies rely on SAP to solidify the liquid waste byproducts of oil and gas drilling, and mining. And, wherever industry has a need to solidify liquid waste streams–whether for manufacturing, maintenance, or environmental cleanup–you will find super absorbent polymers at work.

The unique characteristics of ZappaTec super absorbent polymers, including their ability to absorb water or organic fluids, and resist biodegradation and retain liquid under pressure, make them ideal for waste disposal in landfills.

Super Absorbent Polymer Chemistry

Super absorbent polymers are created by physical or chemical cross linking of polymer molecules. There are several processes manufacturers use to create hydrogels with super absorbent qualities. The process used is determined by the application.

  • Gel polymerization is the most common method of manufacturing super absorbent polymers. Typically, sodium polyacrylate is introduced into a catalytic bath and a reaction is triggered by UV lights. The resulting gel is dried to create polymer granules that can be sorted by particle size, or enhanced with absorbent surface coatings.
  • Solution polymerization differs from gel polymerization in that the majority of the production process takes place within a water-based reactant bath.
  • Solution polymerization creates a “wet” super absorbent polymer by combining polymers, a catalyst, and a non-reactive solvent. The resulting super absorbent substrates or wet polymers may be applied to a range of materials.

Super Absorbent Polymers Compared to Other Solidification Media

ZappaTec super absorbent polymers are a cost-effective alternative to other bulk sorbents, including Portland cement, kiln dust and sawdust. Super absorbent polymers:

  • Absorb more liquid by weight than organic sorbents
  • Retain liquid under pressure
  • Resist biodegradation

Compared to these common sorbents, super absorbent polymers can reduce waste transportation and disposal costs, and allows disposal of a range of solidified liquid waste streams in landfills.

For some applications, ZappaTec SAP can be mixed with organic sorbents, like sawdust, to create a hybrid liquid waste solidification media.

How Are Super Absorbent Polymers Used?

Super absorbent polymers require no special preparation for use. For most effective and efficient use in solidifying bulk waste streams, follow these instructions:

  • Perform a quick treatability assessment to determine the optimum dose rate.
  • Apply the required quantity from a super sack or 50 pound bag.
  • Add the SAP to the waste stream and mechanically mix with a shovel, backhoe or trackhoe.

Super Absorbent Polymer Safety

Super absorbent polymer crystals are non-toxic and non-hazardous. Independent tests confirm that SAP are safe to use. Download the material safety data sheet, or MSDS (PDF).