Superabsorbent polymer (SAP) materials are hydrophilic networks that can absorb and retain huge amounts of water or aqueous solutions. They can uptake water as high as 100,000%. Common SAPs are generally white sugar-like hygroscopic materials, which are mainly used in disposable diapers and other applications including agricultural use. This article reviews the SAP literature, background, types and chemical structures, physical and chemical properties, testing methods, uses, and applied research works. Due to variability of the possible monomers and macromolecular structure, many SAP types can be made. SAPs are originally divided into two main classes; i.e., synthetic (petrochemical-based) and natural (e.g., polysaccharide- and polypeptide-based). Most of the current superabsorbents, however, are frequently produced from acrylic acid (AA), its salts, and acrylamide (AM) via solution or inverse-suspension polymerization techniques. The main synthetic (internal) and environmental (external) factors affecting the acrylic anionic SAP characteristics are described briefly. The methods for quantifying the SAP practical features, i.e., absorption capacity (both load-free and under load), swelling rate, swollen gel strength, wicking capacity, sol fraction, residual monomer, and ionic sensitivity were discussed. The SAP applications and the related research works, particularly the hygienic and agricultural areas are reviewed. Meanwhile, the research findings on the effects of SAP in soil and agricultural achievements in Iran, as an arid country are treated as well. Finally, the safety and environmental issues concerning SAP practical applications are discussed as well.
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