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Application of SPECFLOC C1492

One of the largest uses for polyacrylamide is to flocculate solids in a liquid. This process applies to water treatment, and processes like paper making and screen printing. Polyacrylamide can be supplied in a powder or liquid form, with the liquid form being subcategorized as solution and emulsion polymer. Even though these products are often called 'polyacrylamide', many are actually copolymers of acrylamide and one or more other chemical species, such as an acrylic acid or a salt thereof. The main consequence of this is to give the 'modified' polymer a particular ionic character.

Another common use of polyacrylamide and its derivatives is in subsurface applications such as Enhanced Oil Recovery. High viscosity aqueous solutions can be generated with low concentrations of polyacrylamide polymers, and these can be injected to improve the economics of conventional waterflooding.

The linear soil conditioning form was developed in the 1950s by Monsanto Company and was marketed under the trade name Krilium. The soil conditioning technology was presented at a symposium on "Improvement of Soil Structure" held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 29, 1951. The technology was strongly documented and was published in the June 1952 issue of the journal Soil Science, volume 73, June 1952 that was dedicated to polymeric soil conditioners.

The original formulation of Krilium was difficult to use because it contained calcium which cross-linked the linear polymer under field conditions. Even with a strong marketing campaign, Krilium was abandoned by Monsanto.

After 34 years, the journal Soil Science wanted to update the soil conditioning technology and published another dedicated issue on polymeric soil conditioner and especially linear, water-soluble, anionic polyacrylamide in the May 1986 issue, volume 141, issue number 5.

The Foreword, written by Arthur Wallace from UCLA and Sheldon D. Nelson from BYU stated in part:

The new water-soluble soil conditioners may, if used according to established procedures

  1. increase pore space in soils containing clay
  2. increase water infiltration into soils containing clay
  3. prevent soil crusting
  4. stop erosion and water runoff
  5. make friable soil that is easy to cultivate
  6. make soil dry quicker after rain or irrigation, so that the soil can be worked sooner

Consequently, these translate into

  1. stronger, larger plants with more extensive root system
  2. earlier seed emergence and crop maturity
  3. more efficient water utilization
  4. easier weed removal
  5. more response to fertilizers and to new crop varieties
  6. less plant diseases related to poor soil aeration
  7. decreased energy requirement for tillage

The cross-linked form which retains water is often used for horticultural and agricultural under trade names such as Broadleaf P4, Swell-Gel, and so on.

The anionic form of linear, water soluble polyacrylamide is frequently used as a soil conditioner on farm land and construction sites for erosion control, in order to protect the water quality of nearby rivers and streams.

The polymer is also used to make Gro-Beast toys, which expand when placed in water, such as the Test Tube Aliens. Similarly, the absorbent properties of one of its copolymers can be utilized as an additive in body-powder.

The ionic form of polyacrylamide has found an important role in the potable water treatment industry. Trivalent metal salts, like ferric chloride and aluminum chloride, are bridged by the long polymer chains of polyacrylamide. This results in significant enhancement of the flocculation rate. This allows water treatment plants to greatly improve the removal of total organic content (TOC) from raw water.

Polyacrylamide is also often used in molecular biology applications as a medium for electrophoresis of proteins and nucleic acids in a technique known as PAGE.

It was also used in the synthesis of the first Boger fluid.