IIT Hyderabad researchers develop eco-friendly sanitary napkins with better absorption

A team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad (IIT-H) developed a sanitary napkin with nanofibers for higher absorbing capacity for female menstruation. Commercially available sanitary napkins are made of Superabsorbent Polymers (SAP) that are petroleum-based products and therefore do not degrade readily in landfills and are also not eco-friendly. Several napkins also have harmful chemicals which may have ill-effects on female hygiene in the long run. The sanitary napkins produced by the team of researchers from IIT-H proves to be an eco-friendly alternative for female hygiene as it is made of nanofibers.

Although there are various options such as sanitary napkins, tampons, panty shields, wipes, and cosmetic removal pads, most of them are not only hard to degrade in the environment but also have lesser absorption capacity.

Prof Chandra Shekhar Sharma, faculty- chemical engineering at IIT-Hyderabad and his team introduced the use of electrospun cellulose acetate (CA) nanofibers as a material for the absorbent core in feminine sanitary napkins and to eliminate the use of harmful, non-biodegradable superabsorbent polymers (SAP) from commercially available sanitary napkins without compromising the performance, rather with more enhanced absorbency and comfort.

Speaking about the research, Prof Chandra Shekhar Sharma said, “Nanofibers based feminine hygiene products (without SAP) provides a safe alternative to female hygiene as we know that prolonged use of commercially available products may even lead to toxic shock syndrome and ovarian cancer. The main focus of this work is to minimize the use of SAPs in feminine hygiene products considering their possible adverse health effects. For this, we intend to fabricate cellulose-based nanofibers and suggest their use as absorbent core in feminine hygiene products.”

Samples of the napkins made out of nanofibre had 28-66 per cent better performance than the commercially available samples. While testing the napkins, the absorption capacity of the napkins with nanofiber was four five times higher than those made of SAP. Results of the research were recently published in the journal Applied Materials Today.