Development of biodegradable absorbent core for baby diapers from banana fibres

Excerpt: The health care products like diapers, tampons, sanitary napkins and incontinence, have extensively used wood pulp in their absorbent core, which is the leading share of market in the medical textile


As people were concerned about the environment, everyone wants a sustainable product and people will be more cautious in using hygienic products. Some natural fibres have been left unused and it is to be properly utilized. Banana is one of the most sustainable fibres which is left unused, it was obtained from the pseudostem of the banana plant which was thrown as agricultural waste. Banana and cotton are known for its absorbency. It is one of the most essential feature always demanded by consumers. Wood pulp is the major raw material used in most hygienic products like a diaper, napkin etc., from destroying the trees, which was replaced by banana and cotton fibres. Cotton has chosen for its easy availability, low cost, comfort and hygienic properties. This paper deals with the study on the development of absorbent core for baby diapers using banana and cotton. The banana fibre was extracted from the pseudostem of the banana plant and it undergoes a bio-softening process. Cotton and banana fibres were needle punched to make an absorbent core. The antibacterial finish was given to the developed absorbent core. The developed absorbent core has been tested for free swell absorption, centrifuge retention and antimicrobial properties. These properties are to be compared with commercial diapers as per the standards. Various types of absorbent core have been developed by varying the combination of banana and cotton fibres.

Keyword: Banana, cotton, absorbent core, diapers


In medical applications, the textile is one of the most significant areas of health care and hygienic sector. The products which covers the disposable and non-disposable items such as towel, napkin, mask, surgical gown and diapers etc.(1) The health care products like diapers, tampons, sanitary napkins and incontinence, have extensively used wood pulp in their absorbent core, which is the leading share of market in the medical textiles. Deforestation is one of the leading cause of the environment by destroying trees, from which the natural wood pulp is sourced.(2) The aim of this project is to develop an alternative of wood pulp for absorbent core of baby diapers from banana and cotton. In India, 27.01 million tons of banana is produced.

Normally, after the fruit harvesting, the pseudostem in the banana gets wasted (3) and at present, these wastes get dumped over 37,40,096 tons annually. From these wastes, extraction of the banana process has been carried out(4). The production of banana fibre which replaces the synthetic and other natural fibres and also minimizes additional energy, fertilizers, and chemicals(3). Cotton is a natural fibre in cellulosic nature, with good absorbency, medium strength(21)and it is sustainable, renewable(5), biodegradable over synthetic fibres, as well as 250 million people, get support from this.(22). In addition, cotton seeds are also used as cattle feed or to make oil.(5)

SAP free hygienic products have been future trends by abolishing the production of solid waste, in which superabsorbent polymer is one of the greatest demands (6). Dioxins, petrochemicals, synthetic fragrances are generally coated in the material of commercially available hygienic pads. Skin irritation is the major issue faced when using these pads. Cervical cancer in the reproductive organs which is due to a dioxed rayon-cellulosic chlorine bleached pulp to increase absorption. Yeast and bacterial growth are stimulated by using deodorants and synthetic material in hygienic pads, which blocks moisture and heat. One of the biggest challenges of disposable pads is its non-biodegradability by polluting rivers and nature.(7) In the present study, the banana cotton absorbent core is developed without using sap and it is completely biodegradable.

When the diaper is in direct contact with the body, microorganisms easily grow on the surface.(8)Any intense inflammatory skin burst is caused by diapers is known as diaper dermatitis or diaper rash. This is also caused by raised pH, zinc inadequacy, extended exposure to moisture, urine and faeces. Medicinal plants have been used to treat these infections in the process of antibacterial finishing to diapers(8) and this antibacterial finishing prevents microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, yeasts, viruses(9) thereby protecting the human beings(10) Liliaceae is the family of Aloe vera or Aloe barbadensis Miller. Aloe vera has been effectively used for anti- inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immune boosting, anticancer, healing, anti-ageing and anti-diabetics and also it acquires anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and acaricidal properties.(11 )The skin takes aloe vera faster than water, it helps to open the pores of the skin to receive moisture and nutrients and also it enhances the immune system of the body.(12) Finally, aloe vera finishing is given to the developed absorbent core and the testing is carried out according to the standards.

Materials and methods


Banana fibre and cotton was the material to be used in absorbent core. A banana fibre was extracted from the extraction machine and cotton fibre was procured from the market.


Extraction of banana from outer sheath:

The pseudostem of the banana plant by decortication gives banana fibre i.e. pseudostem of the banana plant is scrapped with the help of a blunt knife. In fact, banana fibres can be extracted from all part of the banana plant of distinct strength, colour and staple length which can be used for various purposes. There are 14-18 sheaths present in a stem, 4-6 sheaths present in outermost layer yields rough fibre, 6-8 sheaths present in outer layer yields smooth fibre and the rest middle sheath 4-6 sheaths yields very soft delicate fibers. (23)

Hand extraction

In Indian villages, the most familiar method of banana fibre extraction from the pseudostem is the hand extraction method.. i.e. stem is scrapped with a knife. The drawback of hand scrapping is that Banana fibre is not extracted on a commercial scale in the country and also the fibre output is very low. (23)

Machine extraction

Due to very low output, time consumption and labour charge, in hand extraction method, machine extractor was discovered. The outer sheath of a banana trunk was separated and then fed into the machine. A machine having machine blade of 12 blades. These blades are arranged in a roller, where the pith and the fibres are separated from the gap between rollerblade and the machine blade. Machine pulley and motor pulley are connected together by a belt to rotate the machine blades. Machine specification details are given in Figure 1.

Softening of banana fibre:

In nature lignocellulosic content exist in banana fibers consists of cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, pectin, wax, ash and water-soluble components. (13). Due to its great tenacity, expanded wet strength, easy drying, lustre, and microbial resistivity, banana fiber has a significant role in textiles. Difficulties in its production, extraction, and processing and also unawareness of the fiber is the main reason for the confined use of this fiber among the people. Banana fibre is generally multi-cellular in nature and this makes the fibre into its increased stiffness, little cohesiveness and higher irregularity is also another intrinsic disadvantage of this fiber.(14) Being rough in nature, the fibre undergoes softening treatment of both chemical treatment and enzymatic process.

Chemical softening:

Alkali treatment of banana fibres

Banana fibres were treated with an alkali solution of Na OH. Impurities were removed from fibre surface by treating it with Sodium Hydroxide (Na OH) and also the fibre fineness improved. The extracted Banana fibres were treated with Na OH at 2% concentration, with a material liquor ratio of 1:20 for 30 min and Temperature of 95°C to reduce the fibre rigidity level (fineness).(15)


The required quantity of fibre was weighed. The specific gravity of Na OH was checked and then it was taken in a beaker with the liquor ratio of 1:30(4g of fibre:120 ml of Na OH). The next step is to add wetting agent i.e. turkey red oil. Finally, the 4 g of fibres was immersed in the solution completely and it was kept for half an hour with an intermediate stirring. After 30 mins, wash the fibres with warm water. Warm water washing is followed by washing with an acetic acid solution at 0.1%concentration for 2-4 minutes and then finally washed with distilled water. (24)

The fibre weight loss can be calculated by using the given below formula.

Weight loss % = [(IW – AW) /IW] x 100 (15) = [(4 - 3.5) / 4] * 100 =12.5%

Bio softening of banana fibres

Most fibre extractions for chemical methods are usually done with Na OH, even though there are some other chemicals (KMnO4, benzoyl chloride, stearic acid, among others) which also has been used. However, environmental problems are caused due to these chemical processes. Lignin is not able to remove by mechanical means.

Biological processes are the substitutes of those above processes, such as the soaked (17) or solid state (18) souring state. To avoid environmental problems, the enzymatic process is considered more eco-friendly and thereby preventing the fiber breakage, even the properties of cellulosic fibres are altered. (16)

In Bio-softening method, the extracted fibres were treated with Bio-pectinase enzyme(20) of 1% concentration for 24 hrs at 1:30 liquor ratio. Enzyme solution(1%) was prepared by dissolving 1 g of pectinase enzyme in 100mlof water.


120 g of fibres were treated with 1 %concentration of bio-pectinase at 1:30 M:L ratio for 24 hours in room temperature. Treatments were optimized at 1 % concentration because of minimum concentration chosen to be used in softening of the fibres. Subsequently, the samples were cleansed with distilled water and let dry.

The fibre weight loss can be calculated by using the given below formula [2].

Weight loss % = [(IW – AW) /IW] x 100 (19) = [(1200 - 1050) / 1200] * 100 =12.5%

Enzymatic treatment was chosen to be best, the weight loss found was 12.5% in both the case but the concentration used in enzymatic treatment(1%) was less than chemical treatment(2%). In enzymatic treatment, the minimal concentration was used in this.

Preparation of absorbent core for baby diapers:

Absorbent core for Baby diapers was prepared from three different combinations namely banana and cotton of banana/cotton(50:50), banana/cotton(70:30), banana/cotton(30:70) without using sap. The fibres were opened using Shirley opener. Then the opened fibres were fed in miniature carding machine to develop web in TIFAC CORE. The web development process was made using 50g of cotton fibre and 50 g of banana fibre for (50:50)combination, 70g of banana fibre and 30g of cotton fibre for (70:30) combination,30g of banana fibre and 70g of cotton fibre for (30:70) combination. The developed web was then needle punched using needle punching machine with required GSM and thickness.

Antibacterial finish

The developed needle punched fabric was given the antibacterial finish.

Antibacterial activity

Inhibiting the growth of bacteria under the activity of antimicrobial agent is termed as antibacterial finish, Achwal (2003)(19). The growth of the microorganism and their contradictory effects of odour, staining and degeneration are suppressed or controlled through Antibacterial property. (20) So, the hygienic products like diapers need to have some antibacterial activity to prevent infections and diseases caused by these micro-organisms. (6)

Aloe vera

Aloe vera gel is an extraordinary demulcent compound. A high molecular weight polymer is composed of a combination of mannuronic and glucuronic units. Uronic acids are released in the process of hydrolytic cleavage of aloe vera gel, which is a natural detoxicant agent. This prevents harmful irritation by stripping toxic materials and enhances the healing process. (20) The aloe gel extracted from aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis Miller) for the antimicrobial finish is herbal, non-irritant, non-allergic, non-toxic, and it is mainly appropriate for finishing with textiles. Hence, aloe vera does not comfort the evolution of micro-organisms like bacteria, fungi etc. (6)


Aloe vera plants were collected and it is extracted using hand extraction method. Outer green leaf was removed using a knife and then washed with distilled water. The gel was squashed using a grinder and then transformed into solvent form. Aloe vera gel extract was taken in three different concentrations in the ratio of (60:40,40:60 and 20:80). The ratio 60:40(60%) represents 60 per cent aloe gel and 40 per cent water,40:60(40%) represents 40 per cent aloe gel and 60 per cent water.20:80(20%) represents 20percent aloe gel and 80 per cent water. Needle punched samples are immersed in the solutions of different concentrations by dip dry method for 30 mins and then dried in the oven at 80 C.

Performance testing

Free swell absorptive test(wsp 240.3-2011)

The purpose of the absorbent core was to absorb the urine and to retain the fluid within the core without wetting the top layer. Free swell absorptive capacity was determined using the standard WSP 240.3- 2011. It was determined by immersing the known samples into the known solution for a specific time, i.e., 0.2 g(W2) of the sample was placed inside the nonwoven bag(W1). The artificial solution was prepared by dissolving 9g of sodium chloride in 1litre of distilled water for half an hour. Then the sample was hung for 10 minutes. Final weight was taken and noted(W4).

g/g = W4 – W1- (W3- W1)/ W3- W1

W1- Initial weight of the nonwoven bag

W2- Initial weight of the sample

W3= W1 + W2

W4- Final weight of the samples

Centrifuge retention capacity(wsp 241.3-2011)

This method measures the centrifuge retention capacity quantitatively. Babies shall not be in a single place for even a minute. They were just roaming around. So when wearing diapers, babies move here and there, during their movement the retention capacity was analyzed. This method was used to analyze retention capacity of the absorbent core in an accelerated mode, i.e., 0.2 g(W2) of the sample was placed inside the nonwoven bag(W1). The artificial solution was prepared by dissolving 9g of sodium chloride in 1litre of distilled water for half an hour. Then the sample was hung for 10 minutes. And then the samples are kept in centrifuge accelerator at 1900 rpm for 2 minutes. Final weight was taken and noted(W4).

g/g = W4 – W1- (W3- W1)/ W3- W1

W1- Initial weight of the nonwoven bag

W2- Initial weight of the sample

W3= W1 + W2

W4- Final weight of the samples

Absorbent core density and thickness

The absorbent core was conditioned at 24C. The weighing balance was used to measure the weight of the absorbent core which has an accuracy of 0.001g. Thickness gauge was used to measure the thickness of the absorbent core at different places of the absorbent core.

Antibacterial test(EN ISO 20645:2004)

The antibacterial test was carried out using agar plate diffusion method. Agar plate diffusion method was carried out against gram-positive bacteria Bacillus subtilis and gram-negative bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Aloe vera-treated samples were placed in inoculated agar plate at 40 C for 24 hrs.

Results and discussion

Before antibacterial finish

Free swell absorptive test

In this case, Free swell absorptive capacity of Banana/cotton 70/30 absorbs more than banana/cotton 50/50 and banana/cotton 30/70. Free swell absorptive capacity Banana/cotton 70/30 is 10.64 g/g of solution which was higher than that of banana/cotton 50/50(7.28g/g)followed by banana/cotton 30/70(4.47g/g). Commercially available diapers absorb 30.88g/g with sap in their absorbent core. But the developed absorbent core having no sap content. Finally, it was observed that Banana/cotton 70/30 shows the best.

Centrifuge retention capacity test

In this case, Centrifuge retention capacity of Banana/cotton 70/30 shows higher retention capacity than banana/cotton 50/50 and banana/cotton 30/70. Centrifuge retention capacity of Banana/cotton 70/30 was 12.35g/g of solution which was higher than banana/cotton 50/50(10.86g/g) followed by banana/cotton 30/70(5.93g/g). Commercially available absorbent core retention capacity was 26.76g/g. Finally, Banana/cotton 70/30 contributes best in case of centrifuge retention capacity.

Product density and thickness

It is observed that the weight of the Banana/cotton 70/30 core is lighter than banana/cotton 50/50 and banana/cotton 30/70.Banana/cotton 50/50 and banana/cotton 30/70 is much thicker than banana/cotton 70/30.

After antibacterial finish

From the above results, it was found that Banana/cotton 70/30 shows the best in both the case of free swell absorption and centrifuge retention. So, the antibacterial finish was selected to given for Banana/Cotton 70/30 in the ratio of 60:40,40:60,20:80(60%,40%,20%).

Free swell absorptive test

If we take free swell absorption in finished Banana/cotton 70/30, 60% aloe finish shows the best in comparison with 40% and 20%. In comparing with before treated sample of Banana/Cotton 70/30 and 60% aloe finished sample 60%, there is no considerable change in the results, as both the values are 12.35g/g and 11.17g/g.

Centrifuge retention test

If we take centrifuge retention in finished Banana/Cotton 70/30,40% aloe finish shows the best in comparison with 40% and 20%. In comparing with before treated sample of Banana/Cotton 70/30 and aloe finished sample of 40%, retention capacity has considerable changes in the results, as both the values are 12.35g/g and 8.37 g/g.

Product density and thickness

The thickness of the developed absorbent core is almost similar in all cases, where 60% optimize the best compared to others.

Antibacterial test

Lagar plate diffusion method

It was observed that the result of the agar plate diffusion test for antimicrobial property against gram-positive bacteria(Bacillus subtilis) and gram-negative bacteria(Pseudomonas aeruginosa). Fig 2 represents aloe finished sample of 60%, Fig 3 represents 40% and fig 4 represents 20%. The zone of inhibition is seen in the samples. From the fig 2, it was found that aloe finish 60% shows the best against Pseudomonas aeurginosa of the zone of inhibition 11mm and Bacillus subtilis of the zone of inhibition 10mm. In fig 3, 40% aloe finished samples inhibits pseudomonas aeurginosa and Bacillus subtilis with their inhibition zones of 5mm and 4mm.In fig 4, 20% aloe finished samples shows little inhibition against both the bacteria with the inhibition zone of 1mm.

Costing of processed absorbent core

Cost of developed product is found to be Rs.6.481, as shown in table 4.3, whereas the cost of commercial product ranging from 8 to 11. The main advantage of using this product is cost- effective in comparing to other commercial diapers.

User trial

The developed absorbent core was used to make trials for babies. They will last up to 3 hours, as they were comparatively less when compared to commercial diapers(up to 8 hours). Thus, it is concluded that, instead of using one commercial diaper, there is a need to use two diapers of the banana absorbent core, this is because there is no sap content in the developed absorbent core.

Trials were made from five different users,

Trials were made for five different babies of around 18 months. From the survey, it was found that there would be a satisfactory result from the developed product.


In this paper, an attempt was made to develop a biodegradable diaper without using SAP. Thus, Banana fibres were eco-friendly, sustainable fibre and it replaces the wood pulp which prevents the forests from extinction. From this study, banana/cotton 70/30 attempts the best compared to other blend ratios in case of both before finishing and after finishing.11.17g/g is the free swell absorption capacity of banana/cotton 70/30which is almost higher than commercial diaper without comparing sap content. From the finishing process, aloe 60% founds to be the best in case of antibacterial activity, free swell absorption, and retention process. Thus we conclude by saying that the developed 60% aloe finished 70/30 banana /cotton absorbent core is completely biodegradable, excellent free swell absorptive capacity, better retention capacity, lower thickness, and GSM. Cost of developed product Rs. 6, is comparatively lower than commercial diapers Rs.8.


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  24. Chapter 4

Author Details

Sowmiya S1, Sentthilkumar C S2

Department of fashion technology, Kumaraguru College of Technology, Coimbatore-641 049

1PG Scholar, 2Associate Professor,

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