Polymers and Absorbency Lab Report

Pages: 4 (1233 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Transportation - Environmental Issues

Thirsty Polymer That Lives in Diapers

Polymers are a class of chemical compound materials made up of a chain of repeating structures (commonly referred to as monomers). These repeating structures occur both in nature and can be prepared synthetically. (Strobl, 2007) Common natural polymers are DNA molecules and cellulose, the basic building block of any tree or plant. One particularly interesting category of synthetic polymers is called polyacrylate. This material is commonly used now in disposable diapers and is known for its ability to hold up to 30 times its own weight in water. The particular type used in diapers is formed by mixing sodium salts with polyacrylic acid to form sodium polyacrylate. (Buchholz, 1994) as it is used in close proximity with humans, this material is considered non-toxic. The water molecules get trapped within the polymer and the material changes from a powder to a gel. The utility of this compound and synthetic polymers that have other properties such as extreme insulation and high impact resistance are constantly being incorporated into new inventions

Works Cited

Buchholz, Fredric L., and Peppas, Nicholas a., eds. (1994). Superabsorbent Polymers, Science and Technology. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society.

Strobl, G. (2007). The Physics of Polymers. New York, NY: Springer.


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The purpose of this experiment is to observe the absorbency properties of various materials compared to the polyacrylate polymer used in disposable diapers. Observations will also be made about how the material interacts with different types of dilute solutions that might commonly be found in a home.

Pre-lab Assignment

Lab Report on Polymers and Absorbency Assignment

With a wide variety of uses for polymers has brought about its utility in applications that are not readily apparent. One of these uses is beads that are mixed in soil that improves aeration by providing water to the plants as they need it. (Soilmoist) Another are heart valve replacements and blood vessels, which behave well in the human body (no rejection) and can last a very long time (Turley). While some synthetic polymers may last a very long time, there is an urban legend that disposable diapers will still be in the landfill 100 years after being put there. This is not entirely true, since there exist some organisms in nature that will break down this material, sometimes within 2 months under the right conditions. This organism is a certain species of mushroom, "Pleurotus ostreatus (better known as oyster mushrooms)" can break down 90% of diaper materials by eating the cellulose (a natural polymer) and the polyacrylate much as it would when it is attached to a tree and feeds off of the tree (Richard, 2011). The article claims that all of the materials in the diaper are broken down within four months. Some of these diapers however, may include materials that are not biodegradable to improve the performance of the fit (i.e. elastic) and also to provide comfort. Researchers and manufacturers are working on improving the biodegrading capability of diapers in order to help the environment (thus getting a selling point) and also because governmental regulation is likely to increase because landfill space is becoming a premium in the U.S.A. And elsewhere in the world. There is a lot of concern about diapers as without other means to help degrade them more quickly, it may take up to 300 years to degrade.

Another issue is that most landfills do not allow human waste to be dumped there, but that is what is in used diapers, so there is risk to the water supply for infection and disease. This problem is likely to increase as the population increases and the space for landfills is reduced. Another detail is that lower cost materials and methods of producing more biodegradable materials… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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