A new method of synthesizing a superabsorbent resin (SAR) from an acrylic acid/ammonium acrylate copolymer by direct UV photopolymerization was studied. The effects of the degree of neutralization of acrylic acid, the photoinitiators, the crosslinking agents, and the UV-light exposure time on the water absorbency (Q) were investigated. The results showed that Q of an SAR based on Irgacure 1700 or Irgacure 1800 and Irgacure 651 was high, reaching about 1200 mL/g, but under the same conditions, Q was low for an SAR based on other photoinitiators. The UV absorption spectrum proved that the photoinitiators matched the UV light source. Among the crosslinking agents, N,N′-methylene bisacrylamide was more efficient than the others at a small concentration and a high value of Q. 13C-NMR spectrometry was used to identify the mechanism of the crosslinking reaction through the esterification of hydroxyethyl acrylate (HEA) and 2-hydroxypropyl acrylate with carboxylic acid group in acrylic acid/ammonium acrylate copolymerization, but the efficiency of the crosslinking reaction by esterification was lower than that of the copolymerization of vinyl groups in the crosslinking agent. Q of the acrylic acid/ammonium acrylate copolymer for the SAR reached 1255 mL/g under certain conditions (degree of neutralization of acrylic acid = 75%, Irgacure 651 concentration = 0.2 wt %, [HEA] = 0.2 wt %, exposure time = 10 min). © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 95: 546–555, 2005
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