Did you know that the petroleum-based superabsorbent polymers used in sanitary napkins and similar products can take up to 500 years to degrade? Those polymers can also cause toxic shock syndrome, which is why their use in tampons was banned decades ago. Now, however, scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology have developed an alternative which they claim is more environmentally-friendly, safer and more effective.
Using an electrospinning process, the researchers created long thin nanofibers made of cellulose acetate.
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Not only are these biodegradable, but they're also about one two-hundredth the thickness of the ribbon-like fibers presently used in commercially available sanitary napkins. This means that they offer more surface area, plus they're 10 percent more porous, so they can absorb more liquid – they've been tested with saline solution and synthetic urine.
The nanofibers are additionally said to be more comfortable against the skin than currently-used materials, and shouldn't cause any adverse reactions.
"Our results show that electrospun nanofibers outperform commercially available sanitary products in terms of absorbency and comfort, and we think this makes it a good candidate to replace the potentially harmful materials currently used," says Dr. Chandra Sharma, corresponding author of the study.
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Applied Materials Today.