Superabsorbent Polymers: From long-established, microplastics generating systems, to sustainable, biodegradable and future proof alternatives

Jingying Chen, Jing Wu*, Patrizio Raffa*, Francesco Picchioni, Cor E. Koning

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)
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Superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) play important roles in our daily life, as they are applied in products for hygiene, agriculture, construction, etc. The most successful commercially used types of SAPs are acrylate-based, which include poly(acrylic acid)s, poly(acrylamide)s, poly(acrylonitrile)s and their salts. The acrylate-based SAPs have superior water-absorbent properties, but they have high molecular weight and in addition an entirely carbon atom-based and cross-linked backbone. These factors endow them with poor (bio)degradability, which has a devastating impact on the environment where such SAP-containing materials may end up at the end of their lifetime. Furthermore, the raw materials for production of acrylate-based SAPs are mostly petroleum-based. From the viewpoint of sustainability, a bio-based resource would be the ideal candidate to replace the fossil-based ones. To overcome the shortcomings of the existing SAPs, bio-based and degradable SAPs are required. This review will then cover the following topics: (1) the technology development history and state-of-the-art of current SAPs; (2) the product designing principles of SAPs; (3) an in-depth introduction and discussion of the structural characteristics and properties of different kinds of SAPs derived from both fossil or renewable resources and (4) novel polycondensate-based, potentially biodegradable SAPs with promising industrial applicability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101475
JournalProgress in Polymer Science
Early online date5-Nov-2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2022


  • Bio-based
  • Biodegradable
  • Microplastics (MPs)
  • Polycondensates
  • Superabsorbent polymers (SAPs)

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