Amber Barron, a student at the U studying material sciences and engineering, has created the first completely biodegradable menstrual pad. She worked on this project with current team members Amelia Heiner and Aruna Dhungel and former team members Alicia Dibble, Sarai Patterson, Ashlea Patterson and Ben Bradford. Working with Professor Jeff Bates, the team first responded to the needs of women in Guatemala who had no waste management system and problems with pollution. Barron developed SHERO (Sustainable Hygiene Engineering Research and Operations) and created a groundbreaking, one-of-a-kind product with materials that will turn into biomass within 45 days to six months after use.
The pad includes a super-absorbent polymer that is both comfortable for women to wear and environmentally friendly. Barron formulated a hot-melt adhesive that enables high-speed manufacturing. Currently, no hot-melt adhesive on the market is biodegradable, and Barron’s design is a major leap forward in the field.
After the University of Utah announced the news, SHERO earned widespread attention. The SHERO team received positive responses — and requests for the product — across the world, from South Africa to Singapore. Henkel, a major corporation specializing in adhesive technologies, reached to out to Barron and wanted to work together. SHERO is now about to run their adhesive on Henkel manufacturing equipment.
SHERO competed in competitions hosted by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, including Get Seeded, Opportunity Quest and the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge, where SHERO received second place overall. Barron says, “Lassonde was valuable because it gave us the resources to work independently.” Barron also took advantage of mentoring opportunities and legal assistance from Lassonde.
In the future, Barron predicts that SHERO will appeal to women willing to pay more for sustainable products. She also hopes to collaborate with non-governmental organizations and multinational companies to bring the product to impoverished areas of developing countries. In the near future, Barron is transitioning the company to manufacturing. She will run exploratory tests with the hot melt adhesive. By September 2019, she wants to manufacture the full pad. And by January 2020, she targets that SHERO will be available to purchase. With SHERO, Barron invented entirely new solutions all while making the world a better place.