Superabsorbent Polymers Market Forecast: Predicting the Future of Liquid Absorption
Superabsorbent polymers (SAP) have taken the world by storm, redefining the way we manage liquids. These remarkable hydrophilic polymers, also known as slush powder, have a unique ability to absorb vast amounts of aqueous fluids, up to 300-500 times their weight, and securely retain them. The secret behind their water-absorbing prowess lies in their high affinity for liquids and their utilization of osmotic pressure. Superabsorbent polymers have found their place in various applications, with a significant presence in disposable hygiene products, where they are paired with adhesive technology to stabilize the product.
The Science Behind SAP
Key raw materials for manufacturing superabsorbent polymers include acrylic acid (Na or K salts), sodium hydroxide, and acrylamide. These materials undergo synthesis through three primary processes: gel polymerization, inverse-suspension polymerization, and solution polymerization. The result is the formation of polyacrylic acid salt, primarily sodium polyacrylate, which continues to be the most popular product among superabsorbent polymers.
Sodium Polyacrylate Leads the Way
In 2019, global demand for superabsorbent polymers reached an estimated 3.0 million tons. These polymers can be categorized as synthetic (petrochemical-based) or natural (polysaccharide or polypeptide-based). Sodium polyacrylate, polyacrylamide, ethylene maleic anhydride copolymer, and polyvinyl alcohol are the most common types available, with sodium polyacrylate reigning as the most manufactured, accounting for over 80% of total SAP production worldwide in 2019. However, potassium polyacrylate shines in agriculture applications, where it can gel absorbed water after rain or irrigation, in contrast to sodium polyacrylate, which retains water without releasing it, leading to soil hardening.
Sodium polyacrylate enjoys a wide range of applications, spanning hygiene, agriculture, and industrial sectors. These polymers are employed in products such as baby diapers, sanitary pads, adult incontinence products, as well as waterproofing materials, cooling materials, and cable wrapping tapes. The growth of sodium polyacrylate is driven by the increasing demand for disposable and personal care hygiene products, facilitated by factors like rising disposable incomes, birth rates, and the growing number of working women and the aging population.
Hygiene at the Helm
Disposable and personal care hygiene products account for nearly 90% of total SAP consumption worldwide. Diapers, in particular, made up more than three-quarters of the total demand for superabsorbent polymers in 2019. These polymers have revolutionized the diaper industry by replacing traditional materials like cloth, cellulose fiber, and cotton. They not only absorb liquids but also keep the skin dry, protecting against irritation. The demand for disposable hygiene products is influenced by multiple factors, including disposable income levels, birth rates, the increase in working women, and the aging population. Developing economies are showing a growing awareness of health and personal hygiene, further boosting SAP demand. Moreover, other applications such as agriculture, medical, and industrial sectors present promising growth opportunities.
Global Market Dynamics
As of now, North America stands as the largest consumer of superabsorbent polymers, representing approximately one-third of total consumption. While disposable diaper penetration rates are high in the region, with over 90%, the growth is expected to be gradual due to declining birth rates. However, the aging population and greater acceptance of incontinence products are poised to drive the superabsorbent polymers market in North America.
Meanwhile, the Asia Pacific region is set to be the fastest-growing market. Factors such as rising disposable incomes, shifting consumer preferences, and increased hygiene awareness in countries like India, China, and Southeast Asia are expected to boost SAP demand. The region is also anticipated to witness high birth rates and increased penetration of baby diapers, with the exception of Japan, which already boasts a penetration rate of over 90% for disposable diapers. However, industry players are relying on the growing elderly population to fuel the demand for adult incontinence products.
Innovation and Expansion
The superabsorbent polymers market is dominated by a handful of companies, including Nippon Shokubai, Evonik Industries, BASF SE, SAP Global, and Sumitomo Seika Chemicals, which collectively accounted for over 60% of total production in 2019. These companies hold a technological advantage that allows them to maintain a strong grip on the market. Currently, there is an overcapacity in the market due to competitive Chinese manufacturers. However, as demand continues to rise from both hygiene and non-hygiene applications, capacity expansion is expected. In 2019, LG invested US$278 million to expand its SAP capacity and strengthen its vertical integration position in propylene processing.
Companies in the industry are also focused on innovation, aiming to address issues such as odor, leakage, and skin rashes in hygiene products. In a significant development, LG and Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) entered into a joint development agreement (JDA) in 2019 to create 100% biobased acrylic acid production and sustainable technology for SAP. Furthermore, LG plans to explore the construction of a bio superabsorbent polymer production facility in North America.
Superabsorbent polymers have truly changed the game when it comes to managing liquids, offering practical solutions across a spectrum of industries. As demand continues to surge, the future of SAP holds promising innovations and advancements, ensuring a dry and comfortable future for consumers worldwide.
Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2023-2030 – By Product, Technology, Grade, Application, End-user, Region: (North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America and Middle East and Africa) https://www.fairfieldmarketresearch.com/report/superabsorbent-polymers-market
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