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News

Cotton treated with hydrophilic polymer absorbs moisture in great quanitities

Eindhoven University Of Technology : 25 January, 2013  (Technical Article)
A hydrophilic (super-absorbent) polymer called PNIPAAm, developed at the Eindhoven University of Technology and Hong Kong Polytechnic University, could be used to enable cheap cotton to provide water in deserts and other arid regions.
Cotton treated with hydrophilic polymer absorbs moisture in great quanitities

At low temperatures, cotton treated with the polymer becomes super-absorbent, and can hold up to 340% of its own weight in water (compared to just 18% without the polymer). As the treated cotton gets hotter, it automatically releases pure water, rfeleasing all absorbed water as it reaches 34C.

The invention is said to be inspired from beetles and spiders in desert areas, which can collect and consume water from fogs. The researchers say that the availability and low-cost of cotton indicates that the technology could provide water in deserts or mountain regions where air is misty at night - and the polymer currently only increases the cost of cotton by 12%. Researchers hope to improve the invention by increasing the amount of water the cotton can absorb and lowering the temperature required to change the polymer from a water-collection to a water-releasing state.

Mesh nets are already being used as a means of collecting water from the air in dry climates, but this system requires strong winds to knock the droplets from the netting to the ground. The polymer coated cotton would not require any wind to release its moisture, and the cotton can be applied directly where moisture is needed most.

While the initial uses of this polymer are agricultural, the researchers also hope it could have other uses like clothing that better absorbs sweat, or tents that collect clean water for campers. 

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