Triangle company uses unusual ingredient to make diapers more absorbent, ‘greener’

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – At one time or another, most everyone who has children buys diapers, a lot of diapers.

Soon the diapers we buy may be revolutionized by a Triangle company that’s using a superabsorbent material made from cornstarch.

Tethis has been looking for ways to address one of the key problems with diapers and that’s leakage. And they’re doing it with more eco-friendly materials.

“Right now every diaper in the world uses a petrochemical,” said Scott Bolin, the CEO of Tethis. “It comes out of an oil refinery but what consumers really want is something biorenewable.”

Right now Tethis manufactures its “green” materials on a fairly small scale.

The process starts with a high-speed machine that changes the form of the corn starch into something like pasta – a pasta that holds onto fluids.

After several more steps, the final product is a powder. Testing shows that water soaks right up.

Ultimately the goal is to put this powder into a diaper interspersed into a cotton fluff material made from pine trees.

Tethis says its product is greener and won’t be any more expensive than other diapers. The company is currently in talks with diaper manufacturers.

“If we can provide them with a green material that costs the same and performs the same as the synthetic, I think we’ll see an end to the use of synthetic material in diapers,” Bolin said.

Parents say they like the idea and keeping costs down is key.

“Sometimes they’re in them for like 20 minutes,” Katie Cecil said, “so the price point would be important in making that decision.”

Tethis has completed its first round of human safety testing and could have its first product in stores as early as the end of the year.

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