Ecological and biodegradable “super absorbent” nappies made of gluten


In terms of recyclable materials and eco-sustainability, it is important to find alternatives to consumer products that pollute as much as disposable nappies.

The Royal Institute of Technology KTH and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences SLU are experimenting with wheat gluten as a raw material to create nappies that are highly absorbent and environmentally sustainable.

How the ecological nappies works

To do this, the team has modified the chemistry of natural gluten and improved the degree of liquid absorption by up to 10 times.
While jasmine shrub extract was added to give the material cohesion.

absorb liquids
An illustration of the material’s ability to absorb liquids 
KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Antonio Capezza, researcher who led the study, explains that the gluten biopolymer thus developed can swell up to 4000% when immersed in water and up to 600% in saline solution.
In addition, this material can be further optimised to make it qualitatively at the same level as standard nappies made from oil-based raw materials.

By aiming to match or exceed the absorbency performance of the petroleum-based superabsorbents used in many disposable nappies, we can meet the standards for most other applications requiring superabsorbents,” explains the researcher.

Capezza says: “If we want to be sustainable, we must use renewable raw materials that do not interfere with the main food production chain in the future.

Using raw materials from agricultural co-productions is the goal of the circular economy of the future.

In addition, with this type of raw material, other uses can also be envisaged where a high absorbency capacity is required, such as in the medical, hygienic-personal or environmental fields in the event of floods and rain.

The characteristics of superabsorbent polymers are described in an article published in Advanced Sustainable Systems.