Environmental Sciences Science Fair Project
Combatting drought with a low-cost, biodegradable Superabsorbent Polymer made out of orange peels


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Project Information
Title: Combatting drought with a low-cost, biodegradable Superabsorbent Polymer made out of orange peels
Subject: Environmental Sciences
Subcategory: Water Conservation
Grade level: High School - Grades 9-12
Academic Level: Ordinary
Project Type: Engineering
Cost: Medium
Awards: Grand Prize Winner
Affiliation: Google Science Fair
Year: 2016
Materials: Orange peels, humidifier, general laboratory equipment
Techniques: Emulsion polymerization
Concepts: Superabsorbent Polymers (SAPs)
Description: South Africa is presently experiencing one of the worst droughts in 45 years. This matter has to be urgently addressed, with food sources under severe strain. However, a clear solution would be Superabsorbent Polymers (SAPs). SAPs absorb and carry about 300 times its weight in liquid relative to their own mass. However, these SAPs are not biodegradable, costly and full of acrylic acid, sodium hydroxide and other chemicals. During more research in the topic, was found that natural occurring polymers exist in most citrus fruits. Orange peels contain over 64% of polysaccharide making it a candidate for biodegradable polymer.
Link: www.googlesciencefair.com...
Background

Superabsorbent Polymers

Superabsorbent polymer (also called slush powder) can absorb and retain extremely large amounts of a liquid relative to their own mass.

Water-absorbing polymers, which are classified as hydrogels when cross-linked, absorb aqueous solutions through hydrogen bonding with water molecules. A SAP's ability to absorb water depends on the ionic concentration of the aqueous solution. In deionized and distilled water, an SAP may absorb 300 times its weight (from 30 to 60 times its own volume) and can become up to 99.9% liquid, but when put into a 0.9% saline solution, the absorbency drops to approximately 50 times its weight. The presence of valence cations in the solution impedes the polymer's ability to bond with the water molecule.

The total absorbency and swelling capacity are controlled by the type and degree of cross-linkers used to make the gel. Low-density cross-linked SAPs generally have a higher absorbent capacity and swell to a larger degree. These types of SAPs also have a softer and stickier gel formation. High cross-link density polymers exhibit lower absorbent capacity and swell, but the gel strength is firmer and can maintain particle shape even under modest pressure.

The largest use of SAPs is found in personal disposable hygiene products, such as baby diapers, adult diapers and sanitary napkins. SAP was discontinued from use in tampons due to 1980s concern over a link with toxic shock syndrome.[citation needed] SAP is also used for blocking water penetration in underground power or communications cable, horticultural water retention agents, control of spill and waste aqueous fluid, and artificial snow for motion picture and stage production. The first commercial use was in 1978 for use in feminine napkins in Japan and disposable bed liners for nursing home patients in the USA. Early applications in the US market were with small regional diaper manufacturers as well as Kimberly Clark.

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License)

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