Guide to Super Absorbent Polymer (2023)

super absorbent polymer

Everything about Superabsorbent Polymer (SAP, Sodium Polyacrylate, Potassium Polyacrylate).

What is SAP

super absorbent polymer

SAP (super absorbent polymer) is a functional polymer material. It can absorb water up to several hundred times its own weight.

The superabsorbent polymer is usually sodium polyacrylate produced by polymerizing sodium hydroxide and acrylic acid.

Super absorbent polymers have great differences in various indicators such as water absorption speed, water absorption capacity and centrifuge water retention rate, which are realized by changing their production process.

For example, in order to meet the needs of agriculture, the raw material is changed from sodium hydroxide to potassium hydroxide, so that the product forms a potassium polyacrylate type water-absorbent resin. This not only prevents the risk of soil salinization caused by its decomposition product sodium ions, but also increases the content of potassium in the soil.

The origins of superabsorbent polymer chemistry trace back to the early 1960s when the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed the preferably superabsorbent polymer materials.

SAP Uses

As a functional polymer material, superabsorbent polymer (SAP) has a strong water-absorbing ability.

  • It can absorb hundreds of times its weight and lock water firmly.
  • After absorbing, SAP powder (or granule) will turn into water gel.

According to different usage, there are many types of superabsorbent polymers – sodium polyacrylate and potassium polyacrylate.

As an important absorbent material, SAP is applied to every aspect of our lives. We try to categorize those uses.

For plants

Potassium polyacrylate - For plants

As the type of superabsorbent polymer for plants, it is a unique superabsorbent granule, which acts to provide increased moisture availability to plants.

What can super absorbent polymer do for plants exactly?

What can super absorbent polymer do for plants

Agriculture grade SAP ( potassium polyacrylate ) can be widely used in agriculture, forestry, and gardening, such as soil water retention agent, seed coating, soil-less cultivation, artificial turf, etc.

  • Improve seed germination and emergence to give plants an early, healthy start,
  • Save the irrigation, increase crops and fruit yield,
  • It contains Potassium, Phosphorus Nitrogen and releases fertilizer efficiency slowly.
how does potassium polyacrylate work?

Important indicators are as follows,

  • Absorbing capacity in soil. The water absorption capacity in the soil is relatively high, which involves water absorption under high pressure and high ion concentration. At the same time, the temperature in the soil will also affect its water absorption capacity.
  • Granular size. The particle size also determines the water retention capacity of potassium polyacrylate in soil. For example, the larger the particle, the stronger the viscose, which can resist the pressure in the soil, but reduces its maximum water absorption.
  • The photolysis resistance. Potassium acrylate usually undergoes photolysis over a long period of time in soil. Photolysis resistance determines the lifetime of potassium polyacrylate in soil.
  • Period of validity. Potassium polyacrylate usually has a very long Period of validity before use. So if you purchase this product in large quantities, it is recommended to transport it by sea.

1. Usage for farming

potassium polyacrylate -Usage for farming

Application Ways

  • Dry Application
    • Mix it with fertilizer and soil evenly and then apply the mixture to the ground by using a fertilizer applicator.
    • For the confined area (less than 20 square meters), it is recommended to apply manually.
    • Completely turn over the ground by using a tillage machine (require it at depth of 20cm).
    • Trampling the ground.
    • Watering the ground.
  • Wet Application
    • Let SAP absorb 200 times water, and become gel form.
    • Put into the sowing furrow.
    • For the confined area (less than 20 square meters), it is recommended to apply manually.
    • Put surface soil in order before planting.

For example, in the farming of rain-fed sugar cane, significant increases in yield of approx. 25% are observed.

  • When replanting a field, put SAP in the furrows where the cane shoots are placed.
  • SAP may be applied at the same time as a fertilizer.
  • Cover the shoots with soil by earthing them up.

2. Usage for arboriculture

  • Dig a hole about three times the volume of the root system.
  • Mix 1 to 2 kg of SAP per m³ into the earth fill.
  • Place the root ball of the plant at the bottom of the hole and fill in the hole with the treated soil. Make sure that the product is distributed evenly around the roots. Then cover the surface with 5 cm of untreated soil to prevent degradation of the polymer by ultraviolet rays and stagnation of water on the surface.
  • Be especially careful not to put the unmixed dry product at the bottom of the hole. After hydration, the product would destabilize the plant.

3. Usage for bare-root dipping

  • Mix 1 kg of SAP in 150-200 liters of water. (Amounts vary depending on the salinity of the water)
  • Slowly pour in the product while stirring the water to obtain a dressing without dumping particles.
  • Let the dressing stand for 15 minutes, the time needed for SAP to reach its maximum absorption. It is important to obtain a dressing that will adhere completely to the roots. The longer the maturation time, the thicker the dressing will be, and the better it will adhere to the roots.
  • A water-soluble nematocide and/or fungicide may also be added to the preparation to protect plants against nematode and fungal attacks.

4. Usage for flower transport


SAP in the form of the hydrogel may be placed in sealed plastic pouches. Once frozen, the pouches are often used in the transport of heat-sensitive plant products such as cut flowers. The hydrogel has excellent resistance to heat shock and does not leak after thawing.

5. Usage for hydroseeding


The other advantage of SAP is that it prevents cellulose mulch from becoming hardpan during a dry spell. The mulch remains aerated and allows the seeds to sprout quickly. SAP also makes it possible to reduce the amount of mulch.

  • SAP must be added last to the hydroseeder tank, after the other components: seeds, fertilizers, mulch, etc.
  • Stir for at least 15 minutes before spreading.

For hygiene products

sodium polyacrylate For hygiene products

In fact, the application of superabsorbent polymers on plants accounts for only a small part of its use. More than 90% of super absorbent polymers are used in sanitary products such as diapers and sanitary napkins as absorbent materials.

With its awesome properties of liquid absorption and locking it has found very useful applications in products prone to moisture like:

  • Diapers,
  • Sanitary napkins,
  • Nursing pads and
  • Pet pads.

In the use of sanitary products, the product parameters of SAP are different from those of plant use.

Important indicators are as follows,

  • Absorbent rate;
  • Absorption under pressure and retention capacity after centrifugation;
  • Liquid Permeability;
  • Residual Monomer.

For miscellaneous industrial products

With each passing day, SAP is being employed in more and more industries and applications due to its increasing popularity and efficiency in water deterrence.

Some applications are as follows,

1. Waterproofing cables


Not only can SAP quickly absorb water, but the gel formed after absorbing water can effectively block water. So it also occupies a place in many water-blocking materials.

SAP is a highly coveted product as far as the manufacture of water-proof tapes and ointments for all sorts of cables are concerned; even, optical fiber cables use SAP. The extent and the speed of absorption are quite high and so are the overall inflation rate and its quantum of inflation upon encountering water.

Important indicators are as follows,

  • Expansion height;
  • Granular size.

Used in Cable

  • Professional-class powder,
  • Fast absorption,
  • Good stability to light, heat, acid, and alkali.

Used in water-blocking tape

  • Fine powder,
  • Fast absorption,
  • Well inflation is under pressure
    ≥15mm/1 min
    ≥18mm/3 min
  • Good stability to light, heat, acid, and alkali.

Used in water-blocking tape

  • Fine powder with uniform size,
  • Well resistant to cold and high temperature,
  • Good stability to light, heat, acid, and alkali.

2. Ice Bags

SAP-for-Ice Bag

Compared with ordinary ice packs, the ice packs produced by SAP have many advantages, such as soft texture, quick ice crystal formation, and prevention of water overflow.

Freshwater is directed at the individual sheets of ice packs to activate them; Superabsorbent Polymer instantly starts absorbing the water and converting it to a Gel by placing them under fresh tap water; in about 20 minutes time it is seen to soak up enough water to form small cushion-shaped Ice Cubes. They are now ready for use by placing them in the freezer.

Important indicators are as follows,

  • Hydration time;
  • Price;
  • Granular size.

3. Inflatable anti-flood sandbags


SAP has this unique application in Disaster Management where it is used in preparing sandbags which, when coming in contact with water, quickly absorb it and expand to form a barrier to the advancing water. Though we call them Sandbags, they actually do not contain any sand; they are so-called because that is how they have been known traditionally.

These Sand-less Sandbags are quite small in size and light in weight initially but they soak up the water to assume a solid shape. They are much easier to store and transport and take up lesser space when unused.

Important indicators are as follows,

  • Absorbent rate;
  • The photolysis resistance.

4. Concrete protection

Concrete needs to absorb water continuously during the setting process, otherwise it will dry out and damage the appearance and firmness. After properly adding the specially formulated SAP when mixing concrete, the SAP hydrogel can buffer the expansion difference during the concrete solidification process, effectively preventing the concrete from cracking.

  • Its permeability happens to be quite low; it totally shuts out the water content,
  • Due to its fibrous texture, it can be stored to form a vertical barrier,
  • Since it is an effective sealant, it finds application in Cement-based items.

5. Sewage Treatment


SAP is a cost-saving alternative to other bulk solidifiers, including Portland cement, kiln dust, corn-cobs, sawdust, or other commodity absorbents.

The unique characteristic of SAP is its ability to absorb water or organic fluids, reject oil, and resist bio-degradation while retaining liquid under pressure. This makes it an ideal stabilizing medium for waste disposal in landfills.

Industrial waste streams vary by salinity, temperature, and chemical composition, so it’s necessary to offer multiple grades of polymer to match the economic and performance requirements for each industrial solidification project.


  • Chemically bonds with water and won’t release liquid,
  • Minimizes waste volume because typical expansion is less than 1%,
  • Mixes quickly to improve production efficiency,
  • Reduce waste transportation and disposal costs compared to other bulking agents.

6. Drilling


In oil or gas well drilling, lost circulation occurs when drilling fluid, known commonly as “mud”, flows into one or more geological formations instead of returning up the annulus. Lost circulation can be a serious problem during the drilling of an oil well or gas well.

SAP Drilling Mud Additive which is a new environmental protection product with good water-absorbable and swellable properties, can effectively against lost circulation.

What is lost circulation?

In oil or gas well drilling, lost circulation occurs when drilling fluid, known commonly as “mud”, flows into one or more geological formations instead of returning up the annulus. Lost circulation can be a serious problem during the drilling of an oil well or gas well.


1. Blowout

If the amount of fluid in the wellbore drops due to lost circulation (or any other reason), hydrostatic pressure is reduced, which can allow gas or fluid which is under higher pressure than the reduced hydrostatic pressure to flow into the wellbore. An influx of gas or fluid into the wellbore, known as a” kick”, can lead to a blowout.

2. Dry Drilling

Dry drilling occurs when fluid is completely lost from the wellbore without actual drilling coming to a stop. The effects of dry drilling range from as minor as destroying a bit too as serious as major damage to the wellbore requiring a new well to be drilled. Dry drilling can also cause severe damage to the drill string, including snapping the pipe, and the drilling rig itself.

Solution of lost circulation

The Traditional Solution to lost circulation

There are some options are available when lost circulation occurs, depending on the severity: Increasing the viscosity of the fluid with bentonite or with the addition of other additives, which typically include organic plant particles.

SAP Drilling Mud Additive – A better solution for lost circulation

It is a new environmental protection material with good water-absorbable, thickening property and swellable properties, which can effectively against lost circulation.

sodium polyacrylate - industrial-grade-sap-for-oil-drilling
sodium polyacrylate - oil-drilling-fliud

Other Applications

It finds extensive usage in a number of species of products due to its amazing properties; some of them may be listed here:

  • As an additive for functional coating in many specific applications,
  • As an additive in Air fresheners,
  • For expanding rubber requirements,
  • Absorption of wastewaters from industries,
  • In the mining industry for disaster management and normal seepages,
  • In certain cosmetics.

Due to its awesome capacity to act on moisture, SAP (Superabsorbent Polymer) is finding newer purposes for which it is being employed.

How to Choose SAP?

The quality grade of SAP

SAP’s main compositions are sodium polyacrylate or potassium polyacrylate.

The grades of SAP are as follows,

  • Improved SAP – Improved on some sides like:
    • Starch-based SAP – The biodegradable type SAP;
    • Minerals-based SAP (for plants) – Available in soil for years;
    • SAP with improved catalyst – High expansion ability (for water blocking of cable);
    • Cation type SAP – concrete additive.
  • Common SAP
    • Potassium polyacrylate – mainly used in agriculture as a water-retaining agent;
    • Sodium polyacrylate – widely used in industrial production such as Paper diapers, Sanitary napkins, Ice bags, Air fresher, Expanding rubber, etc.
  • Defective SAP
    • Recycled SAP: the SAP was used and recycled;
    • Burnt SAP: the SAP was produced at over-temperature.

The ways to find a better manufacturer

It’s up to which uses you need:
SAP is mainly divided into two classes:

And here are the important points on main usages.

Potassium polyacrylate type SAP

  • Absorbing capacity in soil;
  • Granular size;
  • The photolysis resistance;
  • Period of validity.

Sodium polyacrylate type SAP

  • Hygiene products (like a diaper, sanitary towel)
    1. Absorbent rate;
    2. Absorption under pressure and retention capacity after centrifugation;
    3. Liquid Permeability;
    4. Residual Monomer.
  • Waterproof tape of cable
    1. Expansion height;
    2. Granular size.
  • Ice bag
    1. Price;
    2. Granular size.
  • Anti-flood bag
    1. Absorbent rate;
    2. The photolysis resistance.
  • Leaking stoppage in drilling
    1. Viscosity;
    2. Coagulation time.

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      2 comments on “Guide to Super Absorbent Polymer (2023)”

      1. Thanks for the explanation about super absorbent polymer in agriculture, I would like to know if we can heat the SAP and mix it with sand for construction. Can SAP Be used as a heat resistance? in brick manufacturing?

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