The feminine sanitary napkin is an important disposable absorbent hygiene product. Superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) are added in the absorbent core of sanitary napkins in order to improve their absorption capacity. However, they are found to have certain adverse effects on the health of user and also on environment.
IITH researchers lead by Dr Chandrashekar Sharma proposed to replace micron sized fibrils as found in commercial sanitary napkins with electrospun nanofabric due to its large specific surface area and controllable porosity and thus to eliminate the use of SAPs and other chemicals and that too without compromising the performance. Dr Sharma’s research group tested electrospun nanofiber based matrix with and without adding superabsorbent polymers for their potential use in female hygiene applications and evaluated their performance in terms of free and equilibrium absorbency, absorbency under load, residue tests and mechanical properties. Results were then compared with commercially available products and they concluded that use of SAPs can be eliminated by considering electrospun nanofibers based matrix as female hygiene products, which may potentially address the related health concerns as well apart from solving disposal problem. Considering the large surface area and porosity, it was found that the electrospun nanofibers provide a better alternative to achieve even higher absorbency that too without adding SAP. Sanitary napkins without SAP can be a solution for its safe disposal therefore, can have global impact in near future. This innovation has won several recognition at several National and International forums such as, Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Award (2015), Gold Medal at iENA International Trade Fair, Germany (2017), Gold Medal, India International Innovation Fair, Vishakhapatnam, and Silver Medal, 2nd World Invention and Innovation Forum, China (2017).