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Washington State University professor  Dr. Jinwen Zhang and his research team have developed an absorbent gel made of biodegradable material that has several distinct advantages and uses over similar products currently made of petroleum derived materials. The gel is biodegradable, made from soy proteins, and  can absorb more than 250 times its weight in water. It is very similar in texture to material now used in disposable diapers. However, it does not carry the petroleum product environmental contamination concerns. Currently available biologically derived gels in foods and medical products are more expensive and less durable than Dr. Zhang’s new product.

This technology will be very helpful to farmers dealing with drought conditions in their fields because soils could store more water . It would also allow liquid pesticides and herbicides to be applied in more contained methods. Furthermore, the soy proteins will provide additional nitrogen to enhance crop growth, while lessening oil import dependence for the petroleum based materials in current non-biodegradable products.

Dr. Zhang has applied for a patent for his innovation and is working with a California company to start testing this hydrogel in fields.

You can read more about this technological development on the WSU news web at: https://news.wsu.edu/2014/06/30/super-absorbent-gel-could-help-farmers-save-water/#.U7L_BLF5B-M.

(Image supplied by WSU news)