Superabsorbent polymers, as the name suggests, are polymers that can absorb as well as retain large amounts of liquid owing to the ionic concentration property of the aqueous solution. Superabsorbent polymers are known to be able to absorb liquid nearly 500 times its own weight.Superabsorbent polymers are used by major end users such as female hygiene product manufacturers and baby and adult diaper manufacturers as a solidification medium. Superabsorbent polymers also find applications in the medical, agricultural, and construction industries.
Moderate albeit Steady Growth Ahead for Global Market
The worldwide market for superabsorbent polymers, according to a report by Transparency Market Research, was estimated to be worth US$6.06 billion in 2013. Increasing number of applications in a wide range of industries is likely to boost the value of the global superabsorbent polymers market to US$8.78 billion by 2020, registering a moderate CAGR of 5.5% from 2014 to 2020. Volume-wise, TMR pegged the superabsorbent polymers market at 1,861.8 kilo tons in 2013.
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Superabsorbent polymers are used to manufacture medical dressings in the medical industry, in potting soil in the field of agriculture, and in cable wires in the construction industry. The growing market for disposable baby diapers as well as rise in consumer awareness about personal hygiene has fueled the demand for superabsorbent polymers. Market analysts indicate that bio-based superabsorbent polymers are likely to create strong opportunities for growth in the near future, given the escalation in environmental concerns.
On the down side, the volatility of raw material prices threatens to hamper the growth of the market.
Presently, the competitive landscape of the global superabsorbent polymers market is immensely concentrated and in 2013, the top six players accounted for over 90% of the overall market. The leading competitors include Sinopec Group, Evonik Industries AG, Formosa Plastics Group, SUMITOMO SEIKA CHEMICALS Co., Ltd., NIPPON SHOKUBAI Co., Ltd., SDP Global Co. Ltd., BASF SE, LG Chem Ltd., Bayer AG, and Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp.
Baby Diapers Largest Application Segment, North America Global Leader
The superabsorbent polymers market can be segmented on the basis of product into polyacrylamide copolymer, sodium polyacrylate, and others such as polyvinyl alcohol copolymers and ethylene-maleic anhydride copolymers. Polyacrylamide copolymer is projected to be the most rapidly developing product segment by 2020 owing to its excellent properties of absorbing and retaining water and its nontoxicity.
Superabsorbent polymers find applications mainly in feminine hygiene products, baby diapers, adult incontinence products, and others such as construction, medical, and agriculture. The baby diapers segment held a share of over 74% in 2013, making it the largest application segment. Adult incontinence products held the second largest share that year with a demand of 224.3 kilo tons.
Geographically, the global superabsorbent polymers market is divided into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Rest of the World. North America dominated the worldwide market in 2013, followed by Europe. The latter held a share of over 25% that year. Asia Pacific is likely to be the fastest growing market for superabsorbent polymers by 2020 owing to increased demand from end-use industries in countries such as India and China. This region is projected to register a CAGR of 5.4% from 2014 to 2020, according to the TMR report.
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