Click here for more information about Algenuity
Click here for more information about Liqofluxphenometrics515R1
Visit cricatalyst.com!Evodos Separation Technology

Innovations

A better sustainable sanitary pad

May 19, 2017
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

University of Utah materials science and engineering student Amber Barron (left) and materials science and engineering assistant professor Jeff Bates are part of a team that has developed a new, 100-percent biodegradable feminine maxi pad that is made of all natural materials and a processed form of algae as its super-absorbent ingredient, making it much thinner and more comfortable than other similar products.Photo: Dan Hixson/University of Utah College of Engineering

Nearly 20 billion sanitary pads, tampons and applicators are dumped into North American landfills every year, and it takes centuries for them to biodegrade inside plastic bags, according to a 2016 Harvard Business School report. Additionally, it requires high amounts of fossil fuel energy to produce the plastic for these products, resulting in a large carbon footprint.

Attempting to move this situation in a more sustainable direction, a team of students led by University of Utah materials science and engineering assistant professor Jeff Bates has developed a new, 100-percent biodegradable feminine maxi pad that is made of all natural materials and is much thinner and more comfortable than other similar products.

The SHERO Pad uses a processed form of algae as its super-absorbent ingredient, which is then covered with cotton and the same material that makes up tea bags. The result is a maxi pad that is effective, comfortable to wear and can break down in 45 days to six months.

Click to enlarge.

“This is novel in comparison to other biodegradable options out there for pads,” said Amber Barron, a University of Utah junior in materials science and engineering who is on the team of four students. “Most are really bulky because they don’t have a superabsorbent layer.”

The need for something like the SHERO Pad originally came from SHEVA, a nonprofit advocacy group for women and girls in Guatemala, which turned to Mr. Bates because it was looking for a sustainable solution for feminine hygiene waste. One of his areas of research is in hydrogels, which are water-absorbing polymers.

“In Guatemala, there’s no public sanitation system. All the rivers are black because they are so polluted,” Mr. Bates says. “So there really is a genuine need for people in Guatemala to have biodegradable options.”

Part of his solution came one night while feeding his 5-year-old daughter. “One day we were eating dinner with white rice, and my daughter spilled it all over the floor,” he says about that night two years ago. “The next morning, when I was cleaning it up, it was all dry and crusted. I drove to work and thought, ‘What was it about rice that does that?’”

That question of how rice hydrates and dehydrates began a two-year process of searching for the right natural materials for the feminine pad, which included testing with different leaves, such as banana leaves, and forms of cotton.

Mr. Bates, Ms. Barron and the rest of the team — which includes sophomore students, Sarai Patterson, Ashlea Patterson and Ali Dibble — ultimately developed the SHERO Pad, which is made up of four layers: An outer layer of raw cotton similar to a tea bag to repel liquid, a transfer layer of organic cotton to absorb the liquid and pull it from the outer layer, the super-absorbent layer made of agarose gel (a polymer from brown algae), and a final layer made of a corn-based material that keeps the moisture inside and prevents leakage.

While there are other similar sustainable feminine pads on the market today, they either use a hydrogel that is not 100 percent biodegradable or they use thicker layers of natural cotton that are uncomfortable to wear, Ms. Barron says. Another advantage to the SHERO Pad is that it can easily be manufactured in smaller villages using locally sourced materials and without sophisticated tools, just common presses and grinding stones, adds Mr. Bates.

While the team originally developed the SHERO Pad for users in developing countries such as Guatemala, Mr. Bates and the students also will start selling the product in the U.S. for environmentally conscious women. A working prototype has been produced, and they have launched a startup company based in Bountiful, Utah. They hope to have products in Guatemala and on U.S. store shelves within a year.

More Like This…

HOME A.I.M. Archives

Copyright ©2010-2017 AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com. All rights reserved. Permission required to reprint this article in its entirety. Must include copyright statement and live hyperlinks. Contact editorial@algaeindustrymagazine.com. A.I.M. accepts unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and takes no responsibility for the validity of claims made in submitted editorial.

twittertopbarlinks_eventstopbarlinks_requesttopbarlinks_archives

From The A.I.M. Archives

— Refresh Page for More Choices
Tyler Treadway of TCPalm reports on technology joining the fight in response to the Florida algae blooms. He watches, as water from a boat basin topped with several inche...
In New Zealand is an internationally significant collection of microalgae cultures known as the Cawthron Institute Culture Collection of Microalgae (CICCM). The CICCM was...
Forbes is running an interview with Bren Smith, an Ashoka Fellow and the founder of GreenWave, an organization dedicated to restoring oceans, mitigating climate change an...
Algatechnologies Ltd (Algatech), of Kibbutz Ketura, Israel, has become part of the FoodConnects consortium, as winner of a pan-European competition for the Food4Future pr...
Nicolas Sainte-Foie writes for Labiotech.eu about French startup Algopack manufacturing bio-based plastics made from brown algae. Founded by Rémy Lucas in 2010 and manage...
Dan Wood, at the University of Connecticut, writes that assistant extension educator of marine aquaculture at UConn’s Avery Point Campus, Anoushka Concepcion, spoke about...
The University of Kentucky (UK) Center for Applied Energy Research’s (CAER) Biofuels and Environmental Catalysis Group has received a $1.2 million U.S. Department of Ener...
Sarah Karacs reports for @CNNTech that Japanese firm Euglena has been cultivating a type of algae for use in food and cosmetics. But it sees a range of other potential us...
Carl Zimmer writes in The New York Times about a team of Australian scientists studying how climate change will alter ecosystems – by using miniature ecosystems, called m...
WesTech Engineering, Inc. and Utah State University’s Sustainable Waste-to-Bioproducts Engineering Center (SWBEC) are jointly engaged in developing processes for more eff...
Adoption of advanced technologies in various stages of natural astaxanthin production, such as microalgae harvesting, cultivation, extraction, and drying, have been major...
The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) reports that an international team has discovered an enzyme which allows microalgae to convert some of their fatty acid...