Sodium polyacrylate, or waterlock as it is commonly known, is a polymer of polyacrylic acid. It is a widely used super-absorbing polymer. As the name ‘waterlock’ suggests, the compound has the ability to absorb several hundred times of its mass in water as well as other liquid mixtures. It is not a naturally-occurring polymer and is manufactured synthetically. It is widely used in consumer products and in the industrial sector as a binding agent, emulsion stabilizer, film former, and viscosity-controlling agent.
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It was first developed by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) about 50 years ago and was used in diapers that astronauts could wear while they were on long space trips. Since then, several other uses of the polymer have been discovered. For example, agriculture grade sodium polyacrylate is used to water the plants in an efficient manner. When plants need water, their roots move closer to the polymer and absorb water from it. Sodium polyacrylate is commonly used in sanitary products such as baby diapers and pet pads. It is employed as a thickening agent in consumer products such as hair gels, upholstery, carpets, and paints. It is also used as a thickening agent in the medical industry for different medical gels. One of its interesting applications is in the coatings industry. Electric wirings are provided with coatings containing sodium polyacrylate so as to make them waterproof. Sodium polyacrylate absorbs water or moisture before it reaches electric wires. Similar uses include anti-flood bags, ice-bags, and artificial snow. One of its recent applications is in the building sector, where it can be used as an internal sealant in chemical-based materials. According to its usage, the global sodium polyacrylate market can be segmented by the type of its application, namely as a water-absorbent, thickening agent and water-repellent.
While sodium polyacrylate has several advantages, there are also a few limitations associated with the polymer. For example, it can be highly toxic when inhaled or ingested. It can also cause mild irritation to skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. In 1985, use of sodium polyacrylate in tampons was stopped, as it caused unacceptable levels of irritation to women. However, in total, advantages of the polymer significantly outweigh its drawbacks.
Various industries wherein sodium polyacrylate is used (for example, medical, sanitary, agriculture, consumer products, coatings, building materials, and electrical), are expanding at a significant rate. Due to this, the global sodium polyacrylate market has also been expanding at a significant pace. The trend is expected to continue in the next few years. Apart from these existing markets and industries, one of the driving factors behind this growth will be that, even though the polymer has been around for a long time, new applications in new industries are continuously being developed. Accordingly, the market can be segmented by end-user industries.
Some of the well-known suppliers of sodium polyacrylate include Covestro (Germany), RSD Polymers Pvt. Ltd., Powder Pack Chem (India), Zhengzhou Wade Water Treatment Material Co. Ltd., Beijing Cheng Yi Chemical Co., Ltd., Dongying Naxing Trading Co., Ltd., and Hebei Yan Xing Chemical Co., Ltd. (China). While suppliers and distributors are spread across the world, a majority of them can be found in the Asia Pacific region. In terms of consumption, North America and Asia Pacific account for a major share of the market, followed by Europe, Middle East & Africa, and Latin America. As such, the global sodium polyacrylate market can be segmented by regions of North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East & Africa, and Latin America.
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