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. 2018 Mar 6;10(3):271.
doi: 10.3390/polym10030271.

Swelling Behaviour of Superabsorbent Polymers for Soil Amendment Under Different Loads

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Free PMC article

Swelling Behaviour of Superabsorbent Polymers for Soil Amendment Under Different Loads

Krzysztof Lejcuś et al. Polymers (Basel). .
Free PMC article

Abstract

One of the most important among the numerous applications of superabsorbent polymers (SAPs), also known as hydrogels, is soil improvement and supporting plant vegetation in agriculture and environmental engineering. Currently, when water scarcity involves water stress, they are becoming still more commonly used for water retention in soil. As it turns out, one of the major factors influencing the superabsorbent polymers water retention capacity (WRC) is the load of soil. The study presents test results of absorbency under load (AUL) of SAPs. The object of the analysis was cross-linked copolymer of acrylamide and potassium acrylate, of a granulation of 0.50⁻3.15 mm. The authors analysed the water absorption capacity of the superabsorbent polymers under loads characteristic for 3 different densities of soil (1.3 g∙cm-3, 0.9 g∙cm-3, 0.5 g∙cm-3) and three different depths of application (10 cm, 20 cm, and 30 cm). Soil load and bulk densities were simulated by using weights. The experiments were conducted with a Mecmesin Multitest 2.5-xt apparatus. The obtained results demonstrate a very significant reduction in water absorption capacity by SAP under load. For a 30 cm deep layer of soil of bulk density of 1.3 g∙cm-3, after 1 h, this value amounted to 5.0 g∙g-1, and for the control sample without load, this value amounted to more than 200 g∙g-1. For the lowest load in the experiment, which was 0.49 kPa (10 cm deep layer of soil of a bulk density of 0.5 g∙cm-3), this value was 33.0 g∙g-1 after 60 min. Loads do not only limit the volume of the swelling superabsorbent polymer but they also prolong the swelling time. The soil load caused a decrease in the absorption capacity from 338.5 g∙g-1 to 19.3 g∙g-1, as well as a prolongation of the swelling time. The rate parameter (time required to reach 63% of maximum absorption capacity) increased from 63 min for the control sample to more than 300 min for the largest analysed load of 3.83 kPa. The implications of soil load on superabsorbent polymer swelling are crucial for its usage and thus for the soil system. This knowledge might be employed for the more effective usage of superabsorbent polymers in agriculture and environmental engineering, in which they are commonly used to retain water and to support plant growth.

Keywords: absorbency under load; hydrogels; polymers; swelling rate; water absorbing geocomposite.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
(a) Scheme of the test apparatus. (1) Porous rock, (2) outer cylinder with water, (3) superabsorbent polymer, (4) load, (5) inner cylinder, and (6) force sensor; (b) scheme of the test program procedure.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Grain size distribution of the tested superabsorbent polymer.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Histogram of grain size distribution by weight percent of fraction.
Figure 4
Figure 4
Time dependence of the AUL values for superabsorbent polymer loaded with soil of a bulk density of 1.3 g∙cm−3 and 10, 20, and 30 cm deep soil layers.
Figure 5
Figure 5
Time dependence of the AUL values for superabsorbent polymer loaded with soil of a bulk density of 0.9 g∙cm−3 and 10, 20, and 30 cm deep soil layers.
Figure 6
Figure 6
Time dependence of the AUL values for superabsorbent polymer loaded with soil of a bulk density of 0.5 g∙cm−3 and 10, 20, and 30 cm deep soil layers.
Figure 7
Figure 7
Percentage difference in water absorption.
Figure 8
Figure 8
The dependence between equilibrium swelling (Se) and the load for all test groups and the control.
Figure 9
Figure 9
The dependence between the swelling rate parameter (τ) and the load for all test groups and the control.

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