(19)
(11)EP 2 546 284 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
10.07.2019 Bulletin 2019/28

(21)Application number: 11753510.4

(22)Date of filing:  14.03.2011
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
C08J 3/12(2006.01)
A61L 15/56(2006.01)
C08F 6/00(2006.01)
B01J 20/26(2006.01)
A61L 15/60(2006.01)
C08J 3/24(2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/JP2011/055944
(87)International publication number:
WO 2011/111855 (15.09.2011 Gazette  2011/37)

(54)

METHOD FOR MANUFACTURING A WATER-ABSORBING RESIN

VERFAHREN ZUR HERSTELLUNG EINES WASSERABSORBIERENDEN KUNSTHARZES

PROCÉDÉ DE FABRICATION D'UNE RÉSINE ABSORBANT L'EAU


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 12.03.2010 JP 2010055238
12.03.2010 JP 2010055237
12.03.2010 JP 2010055236

(43)Date of publication of application:
16.01.2013 Bulletin 2013/03

(73)Proprietor: Nippon Shokubai Co., Ltd.
Osaka-shi, Osaka 541-0043 (JP)

(72)Inventors:
  • KANZAKI, Syuji
    Himeji-shi Hyogo 671-1292 (JP)
  • OKUDA, Sumio
    Himeji-shi Hyogo 671-1292 (JP)
  • ISHIZAKI, Kunihiko
    Himeji-shi Hyogo 671-1292 (JP)
  • MATSUMOTO, Satoshi
    Himeji-shi Hyogo 671-1292 (JP)

(74)Representative: Henkel, Breuer & Partner 
Patentanwälte Maximiliansplatz 21
80333 München
80333 München (DE)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A2- 1 426 402
JP-A- 2003 082 107
JP-A- 2009 545 635
WO-A1-2008/015946
JP-A- 2009 256 687
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    TECHNICAL FIELD



    [0001] The present invention relates to a process for producing a water-absorbing resin. More concretely, the present invention relates to a method for providing a water-absorbing resin with high physical properties by uniform surface cross-linking in a process for continuously producing a water-absorbing resin in a huge scale involving joined continuous steps.

    BACKGROUND ART



    [0002] A water-absorbing resin (SAP/Super Absorbent Polymer) is a water-swelling and water-insoluble polymer gelling agent and has been used for mainly disposable uses including absorbing articles such as paper diapers and sanitary napkins, as well as water retention agents for agriculture and horticulture, water-stopping materials for industrial use, and the like. A large number of monomers and hydrophilic polymers have been proposed as raw materials for such a water-absorbing resin and particularly, poly(acrylic acid (salt))-type water-absorbing resins using acrylic acid and/or a salt thereof as a monomer have been industrially used most frequently owing to their high water absorbent capability.

    [0003]  Such a water-absorbing resin can be obtained by finely crushing a water-containing gel-like polymer, which is obtained by polymerizing an aqueous monomer solution, during or after the polymerization, and drying the obtained particulated water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer. After drying, if necessary, a pulverizing step and a classification step are carried out and arbitrarily, the obtained product is subjected to surface-crosslinking before drying or after drying. One or more steps such as a fine powder recovery step, an undried matter removal step after drying, a packaging step, and an addition step of adding other additives (fine particles, a deodorant, an antibacterial agent, and the like) may also be carried out arbitrarily. A method to be employed as a common polymerization method is aqueous solution polymerization or reverse-phase suspension polymerization and the product form is generally a powder of about 10 to 1000 µm. Such a process for producing a water-absorbing resin involving many steps is exemplified in Patent Documents 1 to 16.

    PRIOR ART DOCUMENTS


    PATENT DOCUMENTS



    [0004] 

    Patent Document 1: WO No. 2009/113679 pamphlet

    Patent Document 2: WO No. 2009/113678 pamphlet

    Patent Document 3: WO No. 2009/113671 pamphlet

    Patent Document 4: WO No. 2009/113672 pamphlet

    Patent Document 5: WO No. 2009/119754 pamphlet

    Patent Document 6: WO No. 2009/123197 pamphlet

    Patent Document 7: US Patent No. 6716894

    Patent Document 8: US Patent No. 6727345

    Patent Document 9: US Patent No. 6164455

    Patent Document 10: US Patent No. 6817557

    Patent Document 11: US Patent No. 6641064

    Patent Document 12: US Patent No. 6291635

    Patent Document 13: EP Patent No. 1949011

    Patent Document 14: EP Patent Application No. 1 426 402 A2

    Patent Document 15: WO No. 2008/015946 A1 pamphlet

    Patent Document 16: JP Patent Application No. 2003-082107 A


    SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION


    PROBLEMS TO BE SOLVED BY THE INVENTION



    [0005] In recent years, because of increase of the demand for paper diapers, and the like, production scale of the water-absorbing resin has been becoming wider and it leads to a tendency of scale up for one line of production apparatus and increase of polymerization concentration (increase of concentration of an aqueous monomer solution, e.g., disclosed in Patent Document 7). In order to satisfy various high levels of requests from users, a wide variety of products of water-absorbing resins have been developed. Accordingly, in the present situation, there are many steps and many additives employed after the drying step: for example, a pulverizing step, a classification step, a surface treatment step (particularly, a surface-crosslinking step), a conveying step, a granulation step, an additive addition step and a fine powder recovery step, according to the above-mentioned patent documents.

    [0006]  Therefore, the present situation is that a lot of models are produced through many steps in a single plant. The respective steps are sometimes carried out in a batch method, but in general, the main stream is a continuous process. Even if some steps are carried out in a batch method, the process in which the respective steps are joined is as a whole process a substantially continuous process for production. In addition, substantially continuous means that even in the case of batch steps, the steps are repeatedly continuously carried out. For example, it means a state where the hydrogel or a dried material thereof is subjected to a storage step after repeated batch steps to be continuously supplied to continuous steps (even if some batch steps are involved) and these steps are regarded as continuous as a whole process.

    [0007] In a process for producing a water-absorbing resin which involves many steps, the continuous flow of a water-absorbing resin or a hydrogel thereof sometimes stops in a production plant because of periodic maintenance or a temporary trouble (an operation trouble in some steps). Patent Documents 9 to 12 disclose such a trouble (stop of operation) in a crushing step, a conveying step, or a storage step.

    [0008] In the case of joined steps, if even a few steps are stopped, the entire plant in which the steps are joined has to be stopped and, therefore, there occurs problems that, at the time of restarting, the quality is not stable, excess energy is required for restarting the operation, an excess load is applied to an apparatus (e.g., it can be confirmed by increase of the power consumption), and in the worst case, the operation may be stopped. In addition, a colored foreign matter (a discolored material of mainly a water-absorbing resin) may contaminate a water-absorbing resin at the time the operation is restarted.

    SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEMS



    [0009] To solve the above-mentioned problems, the inventors of the present invention have made earnest investigations and have finally found that there is a problem in the surface treatment step and that the above-mentioned problems can be solved by controlling a stopping method for the surface treatment step.

    [0010] That is, the present invention provides a process
    for producing a water-absorbing resin comprising a polymerization step of polymerizing an aqueous unsaturated monomer solution, a drying step of drying a particulated water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer obtained in a crushing step during the polymerization or after the polymerization, a pulverizing step after the drying, a classification step after the drying, and a surface treatment step for the water-absorbing resin powder after the classification step, wherein the surface treatment step is interrupted with a heating treatment apparatus kept in a heated state and thereafter the surface treatment step is restarted. Provide that, the interruption of the surface treatment step means a state where the water-absorbing resin powder is substantially absent in the heating treatment apparatus, or not charged to or not discharged out of the heating treatment apparatus in the continuous surface treatment.

    EFFECTS OF THE INVENTION



    [0011] In continuous production of the water-absorbing resin, particularly, the continuous surface treatment step of carrying out a surface treatment for not less than 1 ton per hour, the water-absorbing resin can be stably produced by stably carrying out the surface treatment without coloration.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING



    [0012] Fig. 1 is a schematic view showing the typical continuous production flow of a water-absorbing resin.

    MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION



    [0013] Hereinafter, a method for producing the water-absorbing resin of the present invention will be described in detail. However, the present invention is not limited to each of the following embodiments but is defined by the claims.

    [1] Definition of terms


    (1-1) Water-absorbing resin



    [0014] In the present invention, the "water-absorbing resin" means a water-swelling and water-insoluble polymer gelling agent. The "water-swelling" means that CRC (absorption capacity without load) defined in ERT 441.2-02 is indispensably 5 [g/g] or more and the "water-insoluble" means that Ext (extractables) defined in ERT 470.2-02 is indispensably 0 to 50 mass %.

    [0015] The water-absorbing resin can be properly designed in accordance with the use and is not particularly limited, and is preferably a hydrophilic crosslinked polymer obtained by crosslinking polymerization of a carboxyl group-containing unsaturated monomer. The water-absorbing resin is not limited to the case in which the entire amount (100 % by mass) is in the form of polymer and may contain other additives and the like to the extent of retaining the above-mentioned characteristics. That is, even a water-absorbing resin composition is generally named as a water-absorbing resin in the present invention. The content of the polyacrylic acid (salt)-type water-absorbing resin is preferably 70 to 99.9 mass% relative to the entire water-absorbing resin, more preferably 80 to 99.7 mass%, and still more preferably 90 to 99.5 mass%. The components other than the water-absorbing resin are preferably water from the viewpoint of the water absorption speed and impact resistance of powder (particles) and may include, if necessary, additives described below.

    (1-2) Polyacrylic acid (salt)-type water-absorbing resin



    [0016] In the present invention, the "polyacrylic acid (salt)-type water-absorbing resin" means a water-absorbing resin having a unit derived from acrylic acid and/or a salt thereof (hereinafter, referred to as an acrylic acid (salt)) as a main repeating unit. Concretely, it means a polymer inevitably containing an acrylic acid (salt) in an amount of 50 to 100 mol%, preferably 70 to 100 mol%, more preferably 90 to 100 mol%, and particularly preferably substantially 100 mol% in the total monomers (excluding a crosslinking agent) used for polymerization. The salt as the polymer essentially contains a water-soluble salt, and preferably contains a monovalent salt, still more preferably an alkali metal salt or ammonium salt, particularly an alkali metal salt, and further sodium salt.

    (1-3) Initial color hue and coloration with time



    [0017] In the present invention, the "initial color hue" means the color hue of a water-absorbing resin immediately after production or immediately after shipment to users, and in general, it is controlled based on the color hue before shipment from a plant. A method for measuring the color hue may be methods (Lab value, YI value, WB value, etc.) described in WO No. 2009/005114.

    [0018] The "coloration with time" means change of color hue of a water-absorbing resin caused during long time storage in an unused state or caused during distribution. Since a water-absorbing resin is colored with time, the commodity value of paper diapers may be deteriorated. The coloration with time is caused during several months to several years and, therefore, it is verified by an accelerating test (accelerating test under high temperature and high humidity) disclosed in WO No. 2009/005114.

    (1-4) EDANA and ERT



    [0019] The "EDANA" is an abbreviation of European Disposables and Nonwovens Associations. "ERT" is an abbreviation of measurement method (EDANA Recommended Test Method) of a water-absorbing resin on the basis of European Standards (almost Global Standards). In this specification, unless otherwise specified, the physical properties of a water-absorbing resin or the like are measured based on ERT original text (Published Literature: revised in 2002).

    (a) "CRC" (ERT441.2-02)



    [0020] The "CRC" is an abbreviation for Centrifuge Retention Capacity and means absorption capacity without load (simply sometimes referred to as "absorption capacity"). Specifically, the CRC is the absorption capacity (unit; g/g) after a water-absorbing resin is freely swollen in 0.9 mass% saline solution for 30 minutes and then is dehydrated in a centrifuge.

    (b) "AAP" (ERT442.2-02)



    [0021] The "AAP" is an abbreviation for Absorption Against Pressure and means absorption capacity under load. Specifically, the AAP is the absorption capacity (unit ; g/g) in 0.9 mass% saline solution for 1 hour under a load of 2.06 kPa (0.3 psi, 21 [gf/cm2]). In the present invention, the AAP was measured under a loading condition of 2.06 kPa (0.3 psi, 21 [gf/cm2]) or 4.83 kPa (0.7 psi, 50 [gf/cm2]).

    (c) "Ext" (ERT 470.2-02)



    [0022] The "Ext" is an abbreviation for Extractables and means the amount of water soluble components (amount of water-solubilized components). Specifically, measurement is carried out by adding Ig of the water-absorbing resin to 200 g of an 0.9 mass% aqueous saline solution, stirring the solution for 16 hours, and measuring the amount of a dissolved polymer by pH titration (unit: mass%).

    (d) "FSC" (ERT440.2-02)



    [0023] The "FSC" is an abbreviation of Free Swell Capacity and means the ratio of free swelling. Concretely, it is the absorption capacity (unit; [g/g]) measured by immersing 0.20 g of a water-absorbing resin in an aqueous solution of 0.9 mass % of sodium chloride for 30 minutes and carrying out the measurement without dehydration by a centrifuge.

    (e) "Residual Monomers" (ERT410.2-02)



    [0024] The "Residual Monomers" means the amount of monomers remaining in a water-absorbing resin. Specifically, the amount of monomers is a value (unit ; ppm by mass) obtained by measuring, after 0.5 g of a water-absorbing resin is charged to 0.9 mass% saline solution and the resultant is stirred for 2 hours, the amount of monomers eluted in the aqueous solution by using high-pressure liquid chromatography.

    (f) "PSD" (ERT420.2-02)



    [0025] The "PSD" is an abbreviation for Particle Size Distribution and means the particle size distribution measured by sieving classification. The mass average particle diameter (D50) and the particle diameter distribution width can be measured by the same method as in "(1) Average Particle Diameter and Distribution of Particle Diameter" described in European Patent No. 0349240, p.7, lines 25-43.

    (g) Other physical properties of water-absorbing resin defined in EDANA



    [0026] "pH" (ERT400.2-02): The "pH" means pH of a water-absorbing resin.

    [0027] "Moisture Content" (ERT 430.2-02): The moisture content means the water content percentage of a water-absorbing resin.

    [0028] "Flow Rate" (ERT 450.2-02) : The flow rate means the flow down speed of a water-absorbing resin.

    [0029] "Density" (ERT 460.2-02): The density means the bulk specific density of a water-absorbing resin.

    [0030] "Respirable Particles" (ERT 480.2-02): The respirable particles mean the respirable dust of a water-absorbing resin.

    [0031] "Dust" (ERT 490.2-02): The dust means the dust contained in a water-absorbing resin.

    (1-5) Liquid permeability



    [0032] The "liquid permeability" means the flow of a liquid flowing among particles of swollen gel under a load or without a load. The "liquid permeability" can be measured by SFC (saline flow conductivity) or GBP (Gel Bed Permeability) as a representative measurement method.

    [0033] The "SFC (saline flow conductivity)" means the liquid permeability of 0.9 g of a water-absorbing resin at a load of 2.06 kPa (0.3 psi) for an aqueous solution of 0.69 mass % of sodium chloride. It is measured according to an SFC testing method described in US Patent No. 5669894.

    [0034] The "GBP" means the liquid permeability of a water-absorbing resin under a load or free expansion for 0.69 mass% physiological saline solution. It is measured according to a GBP testing method described in WO No. 2005/016393 pamphlet.

    (1-6) Heating state of an apparatus



    [0035] The "heating state of an apparatus" in the present invention means a state where an apparatus is heated with a heat source such as an electric heater, steam, or hot air, but does not mean a state where the apparatus is kept warm with residual heat after the heat source is turned off. It includes a state where the heat source is turned off for controlling the temperature constant. The apparatus means an apparatus employed in the respective steps and examples thereof include a dryer in a drying step and a heating treatment apparatus in a surface treatment (crosslinking) step.

    (1-7) Interruption of steps



    [0036] In the present invention, the "Interruption of steps" means a state where a water-absorbing resin powder is substantially absent in an apparatus or not charged to or not discharged out of an apparatus in continuous steps. That is, the "substantially absent state" means that a water-absorbing resin powder after surface treatment is taken out of the apparatus (heating treatment apparatus) (generally in an amount of not less than 95 mass % in the entire retention capability of the apparatus, preferably not less than 98 mass %, more preferably not less than 99 mass %, and particularly preferably 100 mass %). A small amount of the water-absorbing resin powder after surface treatment may be deposited, dropped, retained, or scattered in the apparatus. In addition, an idling operation of the apparatus is also included in the "interruption of steps" in the present invention. In the continuous steps, "a state not charged to or not discharged out of an apparatus" means a state where a water-absorbing resin powder is stopped in an apparatus and a state where the apparatus is stopped.

    (1-8) Continuous production such as continuous polymerization and continuous drying



    [0037] In the present invention, "continuous production such as continuous polymerization and continuous drying" means a state where the water-absorbing resin is continuously charged to and continuously discharged out of an apparatus in the respective steps and an operation time (duration) is preferably not shorter than 24 hours, more preferably not shorter than 240 hours (10 days), and still more preferably not shorter than 720 hours (30 days). The present invention is applied such continuous production (in respective steps of drying, surface-crosslinking, etc.).

    (1-9) Others



    [0038] In this description, "X to Y" showing a range means "not less than X and not more than Y". Additionally, the unit of mass "t (ton)" means "Metric ton" and unless otherwise specified, "ppm" means "ppm by weight" or "ppm by mass". Additionally, "···acid (salt)" means "···acid and/or a salt thereof' and "(meth)acrylic" means "acrylic and/or methacrylic".

    [2] Process for producing water-absorbing resin


    (2-1) Polymerization step



    [0039] This step is a step of obtaining a water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer by polymerizing an aqueous solution containing acrylic acid and/or a salt thereof (hereinafter, referred to as an "acrylic acid (salt)" as a main component.

    (a) Monomer (excluding crosslinking agent)



    [0040] A water-absorbing resin to be obtained by the present invention is produced by using, as a raw material (monomer), an aqueous solution containing an acrylic acid (salt) as a main component and generally polymerized in an aqueous solution state. The monomer concentration (solid content concentration) of the aqueous monomer solution is generally 10 to 90 mass % and preferably 20 to 80 mass %. Polymerization with a high monomer concentration (not lower than 35 mass %, still more preferably not lower than 40 mass %, particularly preferably not lower than 45 mass %, and the saturated concentration as the upper limit, still more preferably not higher than 80 mass % and particularly preferably not higher than 70 mass %) is one of most preferable examples.

    [0041]  In the case a monomer is polymerized in an aqueous solution state, if necessary, surfactants, polymer compounds such as a polyacrylic acid (salt), starch, cellulose, and polyvinyl alcohol, various kinds of chelating agents, and various kinds of additives may be added in an amount of 0 to 30 mass % relative to the monomer.

    [0042] The hydrogel obtained by the polymerization of the aqueous solution, preferably has at least partially neutralized acid groups in the polymer from the viewpoint of water absorption properties. The neutralization may be carried out before polymerization (monomer), during polymerization, or after polymerization (hydrogel) of acrylic acid and from the viewpoint of improvement of the productivity of the water-absorbing resin, AAP (absorption capacity under load), SFC (saline flow conductivity), and the like, it is preferable to carry out neutralization before polymerization of acrylic acid. That is, it is preferable to use neutralized acrylic acid (that is, a partially neutralized salt of acrylic acid) as a monomer.

    [0043] The neutralization ratio of the neutralization is not particularly limited and it is preferably 10 to 100 mol%, more preferably 30 to 95 mol%, still more preferably 50 to 90 mol%, and particularly more preferably 60 to 80 mol% of the acid group. In the case the neutralization ratio is less than 10 mol%, particularly CRC (absorption capacity without load) is sometimes considerably lowered and, therefore, it is not preferable.

    [0044] In the case an acrylic acid (salt) is used as a main component in the present invention, hydrophilic or hydrophobic unsaturated monomers (hereinafter, sometimes also referred to as "other monomers") may be used besides an acrylic acid (salt). The other monomers is not particularly limited and may include methacrylic acid, maleic acid, maleic anhydride, 2-(meth)acrylamido-2-methylpropanesulfonic acid, (meth)acryloxyalkanesulfonic acid, N-vinyl-2-pyrrolidone, N-vinylacetamide, (meth)acrylamide, N-isopropyl(meth) acrylamide, N,N-dimethyl(meth)acrylamide, 2-hydroxyethyl (meth)acrylate, methoxypolyethylene glycol (meth)acrylate, polyethylene glycol (meth)acrylate, stearyl acrylate, and their salts. In the case these other monomers are used, their use amount is not particularly limited as long as the water absorption property of the water-absorbing resin to be obtained is not deteriorated and it is preferably not more than 50 mass % and more preferably not more than 20 mass % relative to the total weight of the monomers.

    (b) Salt for neutralization



    [0045] A basic substance to be used for neutralizing acrylic acid as a monomer or a polymer (hydrogel) after the polymerization is not particularly limited and is preferably monovalent basic substances, for example, alkali metal hydroxides such as sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, lithium hydroxide, (hydrogen) carbonate salts such as sodium (hydrogen) carbonate, potassium (hydrogen) carbonate, and the like, and is particularly preferably sodium hydroxide. The temperature at the time of neutralization (neutralization temperature) is also not particularly limited and preferably 10 to 100°C and more preferably 30 to 90°C. Regarding the neutralization treatment conditions and the like other than the above-mentioned ones, the conditions and the like disclosed in WO No. 2006/522181 and US Patent No. 6388000 are preferably employed in the present invention.

    (c) Crosslinking agent (internal crosslinking agent)



    [0046] In the present invention, from the viewpoint of water absorption properties of the water-absorbing resin to be obtained, it is particularly preferable to use a crosslinking agent (hereinafter, sometimes referred to as an "internal crosslinking agent"). An internal crosslinking agent to be used may be compounds having 2 or more polymerizable double bonds in one molecule and polyfunctional compounds having 2 or more functional groups capable of forming covalent bonds by reaction with a carboxyl group in one molecule. For examples, one or more kinds of polymerizable crosslinking agents with the acrylic acid, reactive crosslinking agents with a carboxyl group, and crosslinking agents having both of these properties can be exemplified. Concrete examples are, as a polymerizable crosslinking agent, compounds having at least two polymerizable double bonds in a molecule such as N,N'-methylene bisacrylamide, (poly)ethylene glycol di(meth)acrylate, (polyoxyethylene) trimethylolpropane tri(meth)acrylate, and poly(meth)allyloxyalkanes. Further, examples of the reactive crosslinking agent are covalent- binding crosslinking agents, for example polyglycidyl ether such as ethylene glycol diglycidyl ether, poly alcohols such as propanediol, glycerin and sorbitol, and ion-binding crosslinking agents such as polyvalent metal compounds of aluminum salt. Among these crosslinking agents, from the viewpoint of water absorbent properties, polymerizable crosslinking agents with the acrylic acid, particularly, acrylate type, allyl type, and acrylamide type polymerizable crosslinking agents are preferably used. These internal crosslinking agents may be used alone or two or more kinds of them may be used in combination. The use amount of the internal crosslinking agent is preferably 0.001 to 5 mol%, more preferably 0.005 to 2 mol%, still more preferably 0.01 to 1 mol%, and particularly preferably 0.03 to 0.5 mol% relative to the monomer excluding the crosslinking agent from the viewpoint of physical property.

    (d) Other minor components



    [0047] In the present invention, from the viewpoint of color hue stability and residual monomers, the content of protoanemonin and/or furfural in acrylic acid is preferably 0 to 10 ppm, more preferably 0 to 5 ppm, and still more preferably 0 to 1 ppm. For the same reason, the content of an aldehyde component other than furfural and/or maleic acid in acrylic acid is preferably 0 to 5 ppm, more preferably 0 to 3 ppm, still more preferably 0 to 1 ppm, and particularly preferably 0 ppm (under detection limit). Examples of the aldehyde component other than furfural include benzaldehyde, acrolein and acetaldehyde. In order to reduce the residual monomers, the content of acrylic acid dimer is preferably 0 to 500 ppm, more preferably 0 to 200 ppm, and still more preferably 0 to 100 ppm.

    [0048] In the present invention, from the viewpoint of polymerization stability, it is preferable to include methoxyphenols in the unsaturated monomers and it is more preferable to include p-methoxyphenol. The content of methoxyphenols is preferably 1 to 250 ppm, more preferably 5 to 200 ppm, still more preferably 10 to 160 ppm, and particularly preferably 20 to 100 ppm relative to the monomer (acrylic acid).

    (e) Other components in aqueous monomer solution



    [0049] In order to improve various physical properties of the water-absorbing resin to be obtained by the present invention, the following substances may be added as arbitrary components to the aqueous monomer solution. That is, a water-soluble resin or a water-absorbing resin such as starch, a polyacrylic acid (salt), polyvinyl alcohol, or polyethylene imine may be added in an amount of, for example, 0 to 50 mass %, preferably 0 to 20 mass %, more preferably 0 to 10 mass %, and still more preferably 0 to 3 mass % relative to the monomer. Further, additives such as various kinds of foaming agents (carbonates, azo compounds, air bubbles, etc.), surfactants, various kinds of chelating agents, hydroxycarboxylic acids, and reducing inorganic salts may be added in an amount of, for example, 0 to 5 mass % and preferably 0 to 1 mass % relative to the monomer.

    [0050] Among them, in the case of aiming at suppression of coloration with the time (improvement of color hue stability at the time of long time storage under high temperature and high humidity) and improvement of urine resistance (gel deterioration prevention) of the water-absorbing resin, a chelating agent, a hydroxycarboxylic acid, and a reducing inorganic salt are preferably used and a chelating agent is particularly preferably used. The use amount in this case is preferably 10 to 5000 ppm, more preferably 10 to 1000 ppm, still more preferably 50 to 1000 ppm, and particularly preferably 100 to 1000 ppm relative to the water-absorbing resin. The compounds disclosed in WO No. 2009/005114 and EU Patent Application Publication Nos. 2057228 and 1848758 may be used for the chelating agent, hydroxycarboxylic acid, and reducing inorganic salt.

    (f) Polymerization initiator



    [0051] A polymerization initiator to be used for the present invention is not particularly limited and can be selected properly in accordance with the polymerization mode. Examples of the polymerization initiator may include a heat decomposition type polymerization initiator, a photodecomposition type polymerization initiator and a redox type polymerization initiator. Examples of the heat decomposition type polymerization initiator may include persulfate such as sodium persulfate, potassium persulfate and ammonium persulfate; peroxides such as hydrogen peroxide, tert-butyl peroxide and methyl ethyl ketone peroxide; and azo compounds such as 2,2'-azobis(2-amindinopropane) dihydrochloride and 2,2'-azobis[2-(2-imidazolin-2-yl)propane]dihydrochloride. Examples of the photodecomposition type polymerization initiator may include benzoin derivatives, benzyl derivatives, acetophenone derivatives, benzophenone derivatives and azo compounds. Examples of the redox type polymerization initiator may include the above-mentioned persulfate or peroxides in combination with reducing compounds such as L-ascorbic acid and sodium hydrogen sulfite. Further, combination use of a heat decomposition type polymerization initiator and a photodecomposition type polymerization initiator can also be exemplified as a preferable embodiment. The use amount of those polymerization initiators is preferably 0.0001 to 1 mol% and more preferably 0.001 to 0.5 mol% relative to the monomer. In the case the use amount of a polymerization initiator exceeds 1 mol%, it may cause coloration of the water-absorbing resin and, therefore, it is not preferable. On the other hand, if the use amount of a polymerization initiator is below 0.0001 mol%, it may possibly increase the residual monomer amount and, therefore, it is not preferable.

    [0052] In place of use of the polymerization initiator, polymerization may be carried out by irradiation with an active energy beam such as radiation beam, electron beam, or ultraviolet rays and also polymerization may be carried out by employing the active energy beam and a polymerization initiator in combination.

    (g) Polymerization method (crosslinking polymerization step)



    [0053] In the present invention, from the viewpoint of water absorption properties of a water-absorbing resin to be obtained, ease of polymerization control in the case of polymerization of the aqueous monomer solution, generally, aqueous solution polymerization or reverse phase suspension polymerization is employed, and aqueous solution polymerization is preferable and continuous aqueous solution polymerization is more preferably employed. Among them, continuous aqueous solution polymerization is preferably employed for production of a water-absorbing resin in a huge scale with a large production amount for one line. The production amount is 0.5 [t/hr] or higher, more preferably 1 [t/hr] or higher, still more preferably 5 [t/hr] or higher, and particularly preferably 10 [t/hr] or higher.

    [0054] Examples of a preferable embodiment of the continuous aqueous solution polymerization include continuous belt polymerization (US Patent Nos. 4893999 and 6241928, US Patent Application Publication No. 2005/215734) and continuous kneader polymerization (US Patent Nos. 6987151 and 670141).

    [0055] One of most preferable examples of the continuous aqueous solution polymerization is starting polymerization at a polymerization starting temperature of not lower than 30°C, preferably not lower than 35°C, more preferably not lower than 40°C, still more preferably not lower than 50°C, and particularly preferably not lower than 60°C (upper limit is boiling point) or high monomer concentration polymerization with a monomer concentration of not lower than 35 mass %, preferably not lower than 40 mass %, and particularly preferably not lower than 45 mass % (upper limit is the saturated concentration). The polymerization starting temperature is defined in accordance with the liquid temperature of an aqueous monomer solution immediately before the solution is supplied to a polymerization apparatus, the conditions disclosed in US Patent Nos. 6906159 and 7091253 can be employed preferably for the present invention.

    [0056] From the viewpoint of improvement of physical property of the water-absorbing resin to be obtained and drying efficiency, it is preferable to evaporate water at the time of polymerization and obtain a water-absorbing resin with a higher solid content concentration. The increase degree of the solid content from the aqueous monomer solution (solid content of hydrogel after polymerization - solid content of monomer before polymerization) is preferably not less than 1 mass %, more preferably 2 to 40 mass %, and still more preferably 3 to 30 mass %. The increase degree is preferably within a range of giving a water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer containing not more than 80 mass % of solid content.

    [0057] The polymerization can be carried out in atmospheric air; however, from the viewpoint of prevention of coloration, it is preferable to carry out the polymerization in an inert gas atmosphere of nitrogen, argon, and the like (e.g., with not more than 1% by volume of oxygen concentration). It is also preferable to carry out the polymerization after replacing the dissolved oxygen in a monomer or a solution containing a monomer with an inert gas (e.g., dissolved oxygen concentration; less than 1 mg/L). The polymerization can be carried out under any pressure; that is, under reduced pressure, under normal pressure, or under pressurization.

    (2-2) Finely crushing step of water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer (gel-crushing step)



    [0058] This step is a step of finely crushing a water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer obtained in the polymerization step to obtain a particulated water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer (hereinafter, referred to as a "particulated hydrogel").

    [0059] The hydrogel obtained in the polymerization step may be dried as it is, but in order to solve the above-mentioned problems, the hydrogel may be gel-crushed, if necessary, preferably during the polymerization or after the polymerization by a crusher (a kneader, a meat chopper, a cutter mill, etc.) to be particulate. That is, between the polymerization step by the continuous belt polymerization or the continuous kneader polymerization and the drying step, a step of finely crushing of the hydrogel (hereinafter, also referred to as "gel-crushing") may be added further. In addition, even in the case the gel is finely crushed by dispersion in a solvent at the time of polymerization such as reverse-phase suspension polymerization, the finely crushing step (finely crushing during polymerization) is included in the finely crushing step of the present invention, and the finely crushing is preferably carried out using a crusher.

    [0060] The temperature of the hydrogel at the time of gel-crushing is kept at or increased to preferably 40 to 95°C and more preferably 50 to 80°C from the viewpoint of physical properties. The mass average particle diameter (D50) of the particulated hydrogel after the gel-crushing is preferably 0.5 to 4 mm, more preferably 0.3 to 3 mm, and still more preferably 0.5 to 2 mm. If the mass average particle diameter (D50) of the particulated hydrogel is within the above-mentioned range, drying is efficiently carried out and, therefore, it is preferable. The ratio of the particulated hydrogel having a particle diameter of not smaller than 5 mm is preferably 0 to 10 mass % and more preferably 0 to 5 mass % in the entire particulated hydrogel. Herein, the particle diameter of the particulated hydrogel is measured by a wet classification method described in paragraph [0091] in JP-A-2000-63527.

    (2-3) Drying step



    [0061] The drying step is a step of drying a particulated water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer obtained in finely crushing step during the polymerization or after the polymerization.

    [0062] Various kinds of dryers can be used as the dryer to be used in the drying step in the present invention without any particular limitation. An air ventilating band type continuous dryer and a fluidized bed dryer are preferably used and an air ventilating band type continuous dryer is more preferably used. The air ventilating band type continuous dryer can efficiently carry out drying.

    [0063] As for the operation time of the drying, continuous drying is carried out preferably for not shorter than 24 hours, more preferably for not shorter than 120 hours, still more preferably for not shorter than 240 hours, and particularly preferably for not shorter than 720 hours.

    (a) Dryer



    [0064] A dryer to be used in the present invention is preferably an air ventilating belt type dryer (belt type dryer) and also, if necessary, one or more kinds of a heat conduction and heat transfer type dryer, a radiation heat transfer type dryer, a hot air heat transfer type dryer, and an induction heating type dryer may be used, and from the viewpoint of quick drying, a hot air heat transfer type dryer (hereinafter, referred to as a hot air dryer) is preferable. Examples of the hot air dryer include an air ventilating belt (band) type, air ventilating circuit type, air ventilating vertical type, parallel flow belt (band) type, air ventilating tunnel type, air ventilating groove stirring type, fluidized bed type, current type and spraying type dryers, and in the present invention, from the viewpoint of the physical property control, an air ventilating belt type dryer is preferable. It is possible to use another dryer in combination, but it is preferable to carry out drying by solely the air ventilating belt type dryer (belt type dryer).

    [0065] Examples of the heat source of the dryer include an electric heater, and various kinds of heated gases such as steam and hot air. Heated steam (not lower than 100°C) is particularly preferably used as a heat source. The heated steam is recycled and reheated through a heat exchanger if necessary, and used in the drying step of the water-absorbing resin or in another step. The heating temperature may be constant or fluctuated.

    [0066] The drying temperature is in a temperature range (hot air temperature) of generally 100 to 250°C, preferably 100 to 220°C, more preferably 120 to 200°C, and particularly preferably 150 to 190°C. It is more efficient that the velocity of the hot air passing in a drying chamber is higher in a range of scarcely blowing out the polymer and the velocity is preferably 0.1 to 5 [m/s] and more preferably 0.5 to 3 [m/s]. If the velocity is below 0.1 [m/s], it takes such a long time to dry out to a prescribed moisture content that a huge dryer is required. On the other hand, if the velocity exceeds 5 [m/s], the amount of the polymer flying out of the drying chamber is increased and stable operation becomes difficult. The drying time (the time from charging of the particluated water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer to the dryer to discharge of the same particluated water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer in form of a dried material out of the dryer) depends on the surface area and moisture content of the polymer, the type of the dryer, and the air blow quantity and is selected to give an intended moisture content. For example, the drying time is properly selected in a range of preferably 1 minute to 1 hour.

    [0067] The present invention is applied for huge scale continuous drying with a belt length of the dryer in a range of 5 to 100 m, further 10 to 70 m, and particularly 20 to 60 m. The width of the belt is not particularly limited and it is properly determined in a range of generally 0.5 to 10 m and further 1 to 5 m. The ratio between the width direction and the longitudinal direction may be determined in accordance with the purpose, but it is preferably longer in the longitudinal direction (proceeding direction) than in the width direction and the ratio is properly determined in a range of generally 3 to 500 times and further 5 to 100 times.

    [0068] The drying in the present invention is preferably carried out on a continuous air ventilating belt and examples of the air ventilating belt include a metal net (e.g., meshes of 1000 to 45 µm) and a punching metal and a punching metal is preferably used. The shape of holes of a punching metal may be various and examples thereof include round holes, elliptic holes, rectangular holes, hexagonal holes, long round holes, long rectangular holes, diamond holes, cross holes, and a plurality of these holes in combination and the arrangement of the holes may be in zigzag or in parallel arrangement. The belt may have holes formed three-dimensionally like louvers but preferably have holes in a flat structure. The pitch direction of the belt may be vertical, transverse, or slanting to the belt proceeding direction and may be a combination of these. The size of the holes and hole ratio of the punching metal will be described later.

    [0069] The conveying speed of the particulated water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer on the air ventilating belt may be properly adjusted in accordance with the belt width, the belt length, the production amount and the drying time, and from the viewpoint of the load to the belt driving apparatus and durability, it is preferably 0.3 to 5 [m/min], more preferably 0.5 to 2.5 [m/min], still more preferably 0.5 to 2 [m/min], and particularly preferably 0.7 to 1.5 [m/min].

    [0070] In order to achieve the present invention, it is preferable to change the temperature, dew point, and air blow quantity in multi-stages and, therefore, the air ventilating belt type dryer preferably has not less than 5 chambers, particularly not less than 6 chambers, and further not less than 8 chambers. The upper limit may be properly set in accordance with the scale, and generally about 20 chambers suffice.

    (b) Surface occupancy



    [0071] In the production process of the present invention, in the case an air ventilating band dryer is used, the surface occupancy on the belt is generally 85 to 100%, preferably 87 to 100%, more preferably 87 to 99%, particularly preferably 90 to 98%, and most preferably 93 to 97%. The surface occupancy is defined as the area ratio (percentage) of the layered material of the particulated hydrogel occupying the air ventilating belt face to the air ventilating belt area (A) in the initial period of the drying step. The air ventilating belt area (A) includes the areas of the holes. The area (B) of the air ventilating belt face on which the layered material of the particulated hydrogel in the initial drying period occupies is defined by the occupying area of the layered material of the particulated hydrogel in the section. The surface occupancy (B/A × 100(%)) is defined by the air ventilating belt area (A) that is defined aforementioned and the area (B) occupied by the layered material of the particulated hydrogel. If the surface occupancy exceeds 99% or less than 85%, it is found that the physical properties of a water-absorbing resin tend to be deteriorated and the dropping and scattering ratio, drying efficiency, and continuous drying property tend to be lowered. Unoccupied places on the belt may be properly determined and parts where no hydrogel is layered may be formed in certain set positions in the center part, both end parts, and middle parts and preferably a prescribed region where no hydrogel is set is formed in both end parts.

    (c) Hole ratio and holes



    [0072] In the production process of the present invention, in the case an air ventilating band dryer is used, the hole ratio of the punching metal is preferably 15 to 50%, more preferably 20 to 45%, and particularly preferably 25 to 40%. The hole ratio is determined in accordance with the holes or pitches (P), and in the case there is no hole in a certain prescribed region, for example, the punching metal has rims, the hole ratio is defined based on the area including the region. If the hole ratio is out of the above-mentioned range, it is found that the physical properties of a water-absorbing resin tend to be deteriorated and the drying efficiency and continuous drying property tend to be lowered.

    [0073] The area of one hole (in the case where there are a plurality of types of holes, the area is defined as an average opening area) is preferably larger than the cross-sectional area of one particle of the particulated hydrogel, more preferably in a range of 2 to 100 times as large, and still more preferably in a range of 4 to 50 times as large. The maximum opening distance of each hole (e.g., the diameter in the case of a circle, or the longer diameter in the case of an ellipse) is preferably larger than the mass average particle diameter of the particulated hydrogel, more preferably in a range of 2 to 100 times as large, and still more preferably in a range of 4 to 50 times as large. The average opening area of the holes is 5 to 500 mm2, preferably 10 to 100 mm2, and particularly preferably 15 to 50 mm2. In the case the area is smaller than the above-mentioned range, the drying efficiency is lowered and in the case it is larger, the yield of the dried material is lowered and, therefore, these cases are not preferable.

    (d) Resin solid content



    [0074] As described above, in the polymerization step in the production process of the present invention, continuous kneader polymerization or continuous belt polymerization, which is carried out while evaporating water, is preferable. In this polymerization step, the increase degree of the solid content (the difference between the solid content of the aqueous monomer solution and the gel solid content) is not less than 1 mass %, further not less than 2 mass %, and particularly not less than 5 mass % and owing to the solid content increase, the water-absorbing resin with high physical properties can be obtained with high productivity and low energy. In the drying step, similarly, increase of the resin solid content not only reduces energy but also causes a preferable effect on decrease of adhesion to the dryer.

    [0075] From the viewpoint of solid content increase in the drying step, prevention of adhesion of the hydrogel to the dryer and particle size control of a product, the water-absorbing resin fine particles obtained in the classification step can be recycled to the particulated water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer before drying. The solid content of the particulated water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer before introduction into the drying step is preferably not less than 45 mass %. The particulated water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer is dried in a scale of 1 [t/hr] or more. The resin solid content can be controlled based on the monomer concentration, water evaporation at the time of polymerization and recycling of the fine powder, and increase of the resin solid content can not only reduce the energy but also adhesion to the dryer.

    (2-4) Pulverizing step and classification step (particle size adjustment after drying)



    [0076] These steps are steps for pulverizing and classifying the dried material obtained in the drying step to obtain a water-absorbing resin powder. The water-absorbing resin powder is a water-absorbing resin before the water-absorbing resin is subjected to the following surface-crosslinking treatment. The dried material obtained in the drying step can be used as a dried powder as it is, but the particulated hydrogel may possibly be agglomerated at the time of drying to form block-like agglomerates. This phenomenon is observed particularly in a band dryer and pulverizing or rough crushing (break into small pieces) is needed. Further, in order to improve the physical properties in the surface-crosslinking step described later, it is preferable to control the water-absorbing resin powder to have a specified particle size. The particle size may be properly controlled not only in the pulverizing step and classification step but also in the polymerization step (particularly, reverse-phase suspension polymerization), the fine powder recovery step and the granulation step. Hereinafter, the particle size is defined by a standard sieve (JIS Z8801-1 (2000)).

    [0077]  A pulverizer to be used in the pulverizing step is not particularly limited and conventionally known pulverizers may be used. Specific examples thereof include a roll mill, a hammer mill, a roll granulator, a jaw crusher, a gyrectory crusher, a cone crusher, a roll crusher and a cutter mill. Among them, a multi-stage roll mill or a roll granulator is preferably used from the viewpoint of particle size control. In the classification step, various kinds of classification apparatuses such as sieving classification and air current classification can be used.

    [0078] The classification step in the present invention is carried out inevitably before surface-crosslinking and/or after surface-crosslinking, preferably before surface-crosslinking, and still more preferably carried out twice in total before surface-crosslinking and after surface-crosslinking.

    [0079] From the viewpoint of improvement of physical properties of a water-absorbing resin to be obtained in this step, it is preferable to control the particle size to be in the following range. That is, the mass average particle diameter (D50) of the water-absorbing resin powder (before surface-crosslinking) is preferably 200 to 600 µm, more preferably 200 to 550 µm, still more preferably 250 to 500 µm, and particularly preferably 350 to 450 µm. The ratio of fine particles which pass through a sieve with meshes of 150 µm (JIS standard sieve) is preferably 0 to 5 mass %, more preferably 0 to 3 mass %, and still more preferably 0 to 1 mass % relative to the entire water-absorbing resin powder. The ratio of coarse particles which do not pass through a sieve with meshes of 850 µm (JIS standard sieve) is preferably 0 to 5 mass %, more preferably 0 to 3 mass %, and still more preferably 0 to 1 mass % relative to the entire water-absorbing resin powder. The particle size is measured by a method disclosed in WO No. 2004/69915 and EDANA-ERT 420.2.-02 (Particle Size Distribution).

    (2-5) Surface treatment step



    [0080] The process for producing a water-absorbing resin of the present invention is a process for producing a water-absorbing resin involving a polymerization step of polymerizing an aqueous unsaturated monomer solution, a drying step of drying a particulated water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer obtained in a finely crushing step during the polymerization or after the polymerization, a pulverizing step after drying, a classification step after drying, a surface treatment step for a water-absorbing resin powder after the classification step, and, if necessary, a second classification step after the surface treatment step (e.g., see Fig. 1) and is characterized in that the surface treatment step is interrupted with a heating treatment apparatus kept in the heated state and thereafter the surface treatment step is restarted. The "interruption of surface treatment step" means a state where the water-absorbing resin powder is substantially absent in a heating treatment apparatus, or not charged to or not discharged out of a heating treatment apparatus in continuous surface treatment step.

    [0081] As described above, the process for producing the water-absorbing resin involves a large number of continuously carried out steps such as a polymerization step, a finely crushing step, a drying step, a pulverizing step, a classification step, and a surface treatment step. At the time of periodic maintenance and a temporal trouble (an operation trouble in some steps), it is necessary to stop all of the steps and to stop the continuous production flow of the water-absorbing resin. The operation is restarted after these countermeasures are taken, and in such a case, because the quality of the water-absorbing resin to be obtained is not stabilized or excess energy is needed to restart the operation, apparatuses sometimes get out of order and the operation may be stopped again. Further, coloring foreign matters (mainly a discolored matter of the water-absorbing resin) are sometimes mixed at the time of restarting of the operation.

    [0082] In the present invention, among above-mentioned steps, assuming that a heating treatment apparatus used for the surface treatment step (heating treatment step) is stopped, the inventors have paid attention to a method of stopping the heating treatment apparatus by which the above-mentioned problem can be solved. That is, in the present invention, the inventors have found that the above-mentioned problem can be solved by keeping the heating treatment apparatus in a heated state even in a interruption period of the heating treatment step. The heating treatment apparatus is smoothly operated at the time of restarting of the operation, no colored foreign matter is mixed in the water-absorbing resin, and a continuous surface treatment can be stably carried out by carrying out the above-mentioned operation. "Keeping the heating treatment apparatus in a heated state" means consecutive supply of a heat source and a heated state based only on remaining heat without supply of a heat source during the stop of the heating treatment step is not included in the heated state.

    [0083] Examples of the heat source include an electric heater, and various kinds of heated gases such as steam and hot air, and consecutive supply of heated gas is preferable. Heated steam (not lower than 100°C) is particularly preferably used as a heat source. The heated steam is recycled and reheated through a heat exchanger if necessary, and used in the drying step of the water-absorbing resin or in another step. The consecutive supply of a heat source to the dryer may be carried out so as to give a desired heating temperature or keep a temperature range as described below and it may be continuous heating or intermittent heating (On/Off). The heating temperature may be constant or fluctuated.

    [0084] The heating treatment apparatus and the water-absorbing resin powder remaining in the heating treatment apparatus are heated preferably by a method of blowing air, heated by the heat source, into the heating treatment apparatus or by a method of warming the heating treatment apparatus by tracing.

    [0085] Herein, the heating treatment step may be carried out in any of a continuous manner, a semi-continuous manner, and a batch manner in the present invention and especially, a continuous heating treatment step is preferably employed. That is, at the time of stopping the continuous heating treatment step, the heating treatment apparatus is stopped while being kept in a heated state and thereafter the heating treatment is restarted. If heating treatment is restarted after the heating treatment apparatus is stopped completely, excess energy (torque) is needed for paddle at the time of starting the operation, or a colored foreign matter may be mixed.

    [0086] As for the treatment time of the heating treatment, continuous heating treatment is carried out preferably for not shorter than 24 hours, more preferably for not shorter than 120 hours, still more preferably for not shorter than 240 hours, and particularly preferably for not shorter than 720 hours. The time from stopping of heating treatment to starting of heating treatment (the interruption period of the heating treatment step in the present invention) is preferably not shorter than 0.5 hours, more preferably not shorter than 0.5 hours and within 100 days, still more preferably not shorter than 1 hour and within 50 days, particularly preferably not shorter than 5 hours and within 20 days, and most preferably not shorter than 10 hours and within 15 days. In the case the interruption period of the heating treatment step is shorter than 0.5 hours, since the amount of temperature decrease from the heating treatment temperature before stopping is small, the effect of stopping in the heated state is small. On the other hand, in the case the interruption period of the heating treatment step exceeds 100 days, since the heating treatment apparatus is not used for a long period, the energy use continues for a long period and it results in disadvantage of the energy cost.

    [0087] The temperature of the heating treatment apparatus (atmosphere temperature in the heating treatment apparatus) during the interruption period of the heating treatment step is such that the heated state is consecuted, and from the viewpoint of the energy and coloration issue, the temperature is lower than the heating treatment temperature. Concretely, it is lower than the heating treatment temperature by not less than 10°C, and preferably by not less than 20°C, not less than 30°C, and not less than 40°C in this order. The lower limit of temperature of the heating treatment apparatus during the interruption of the heating treatment step is preferably not lower than 40°C, more preferably not lower than 50°C, and still more preferably not lower than 60°C. If the temperature of the heating treatment apparatus is lower than 40°C, excess energy is needed at the time of starting the paddle and a colored foreign matter may be mixed and, therefore, it is undesirable. Consequently, the temperature of the heating treatment apparatus during the interruption period of the heating treatment step is preferably not lower than 40°C, more preferably not lower than 60°C, and still more preferably 80 to 140°C. In addition, in the case the water-absorbing resin remains in the heating treatment apparatus such as a case where a trouble occurs downstream of the heating treatment apparatus, if the heating treatment apparatus is stopped at the heating treatment temperature as it is during the interruption period, the absorption capacity of the water-absorbing resin powder remaining in the heating treatment apparatus is lowered. Therefore, at the time of restarting of the heating treatment apparatus, it may take a long time to obtain a water-absorbing resin with a desired absorption capacity. On the other hand, if the heating treatment apparatus
    is stopped at lower than 40°C, other than the above-mentioned problems, there occurs another problem that the physical property of the water-absorbing resin is fluctuated by lots at the time of restarting of the heating treatment apparatus and in many cases the water-absorbing resin often becomes inferior in the absorption capacity and liquid permeability. The reason for this is assumed as follows: because the water-absorbing resin powder in the inside of the heating treatment apparatus is agglomerated and remains in the inside of the heating treatment apparatus without being discharged even after restart of the heating treatment apparatus, a uniform heating treatment is continuously inhibited.

    [0088] It is preferable that retained substance (or its agglomerated particles) of the water-absorbing resin powder is removed from the heating treatment apparatus during the interruption period of the heating treatment step. Removal of the retained substance (including the dropped retained substance) gives the water-absorbing resin free from a colored foreign matter (e.g., the water-absorbing resin burned out to be yellow, brown, dark brown, or black). The colored foreign matter is produced by long time retention of the retained substance of the water-absorbing resin powder in the heating treatment apparatus. Consequently, in the case of continuous operation for not shorter than 5 days, not shorter than 10 days, or furthermore not shorter than 20 days, it is preferable to periodically remove and clean up the retained substance of the water-absorbing resin powder. The form of the retained substance is not particularly limited, but it is generally particulate, and its particles are retained in the heating treatment apparatus by dropping from the paddle of the heating treatment apparatus, scattering, or adhering to the heating treatment apparatus. A method for removing the retained substance may be vacuum suction, removal by a brush, or blowing up with (pressurized) air. At the time of removal of (particles of) the retained substance from the heating treatment apparatus, the heating treatment apparatus may be in the heated state; however, in the case a worker cleans the inside of the heating treatment apparatus, from the viewpoint of the ease of the removal work, it is preferable to quickly carry out the cleaning work after the temperature is decreased to around room temperature. That is, cleaning may be started within 100 hours. Cleaning is started preferably within 48 hours, more preferably within 24 hours, still more preferably within 12 hours, and particularly preferably within 6 hours. If times passes while the heating is stopped, adhesion of the retained substance becomes intense as described above and the cleaning may become difficult.

    [0089] In the present invention, a step for reforming the periphery of particle surface for the water-absorbing resin powder (particles) with the prescribed particle size is called as a surface treatment step. Herein, the "surface treatment" may be surface-crosslinking and also addition of various kinds of additives and polymers to the particle surface and preferably, surface-crosslinking by a thermal reaction is indispensably carried out. The surface treatment other than surface-crosslinking may be addition of a water-soluble or water-insoluble polymer, a lubricant, a chelating agent, a deodorant, an antibacterial agent, water, a surfactant, water-insoluble fine particles, an antioxidant, a reducing agent, etc. These agents may be added and mixed in an amount of preferably 0 to 30 mass % and more preferably 0.01 to 10 mass % to the water-absorbing resin powder or water-absorbing resin particles after surface-crosslinking. These agents may be mixed and heated up to the above-mentioned upper limit in place of the following surface-crosslinking agent. Hereinafter, a surface-crosslinking step is explained as a representative and the following respective steps of mixing, heating, and stopping can be properly be applied for the surface treatment step, which is a superordinate concept.

    (a) Mixing step (surface-crosslinking step)



    [0090] In the present invention, in order to improve the water absorption performance, preferably a surface-crosslinking step is further involved. In the present invention, coloration is scarcely caused and a whiter water-absorbing resin can be obtained by the surface-crosslinking treatment. The following respective steps can be applied preferably for surface-crosslinking of a water-absorbing resin, particularly for high temperature surface -crosslinking.

    [0091] The surface-crosslinking step in the present invention is composed of a step of mixing a water-absorbing resin powder with a surface-crosslinking agent, a step of heating treatment for the mixture, and a cooling step carried out if necessary.

    (Covalent bonding surface-crosslinking agent)



    [0092] A surface-crosslinking agent to be used for the present invention is not particularly limited and various kinds of organic and inorganic surface-crosslinking agents can be mentioned. Among them, an organic surface-crosslinking agent alone or combination use of an organic surface-crosslinking agent and an ion bonding surface-crosslinking agent is preferable. A covalent bonding surface-crosslinking agent is preferably used as the organic surface-crosslinking agent, preferable examples to be used are dehydration reactive surface-crosslinking agents such as polyhydric alcohol compounds, epoxy compounds, polyamine compounds and their condensation products with haloepoxy compounds, oxazoline compounds (mono-, di-, or poly-)oxazolidinone compounds, alkylene carbonate compounds. Particularly dehydration reactive surface-crosslinking agents such as a polyhydric alcohol compound, an alkylene carbonate compound, and an oxazolidinone compound, which require high temperature reaction are preferably used. More concretely, examples are compounds exemplified in US Patent Nos. 6228930, 6071976 and 6254990. Examples are dehydration esterification reactive surface-crosslinking agents include polyalcohol compounds such as mono-, di-, tri-, or tetra-propylene glycol, 1,3-propanediol, glycerin, 1,4-butanediol, 1,3-butanediol, 1,5-pentanediol, 1,6-hexanediol and sorbitol; epoxy compounds such as ethylene glycol diglycidyl ether and glycidol; alkylene carbonate compounds such as ethylene carbonate; oxetane compounds; and cyclic urea compounds such as 2-imidazolidinone. One or more kinds of covalent surface-crosslinking agents (particularly, dehydration reactive surface-crosslinking agents) can be used in combination. The use amount of the surface-crosslinking agents may be properly determined in a range of preferably 0.001 to 10 parts by mass and more preferably 0.01 to 5 parts by mass relative to 100 parts by mass of the water-absorbing resin powder.

    (Ion bonding surface-crosslinking agent)



    [0093] In the present invention, from the viewpoint of improvement of physical properties such as liquid permeability, an inorganic surface-crosslinking agent can be used other than the organic surface-crosslinking agent. Examples usable as the inorganic surface-crosslinking agent is not particularly limited and may include divalent or higher, preferably, trivalent to tetravalent polyvalent metal salts (organic salts and inorganic salts) or hydroxides. Concretely, polyvalent metals to be used are aluminum and zirconium, and aluminum lactate and aluminum sulfate are usable. These inorganic surface-crosslinking agents may be used simultaneously with or separately from the organic surface-crosslinking agent. The surface-crosslinking with polyvalent metals is exemplified in International Publication Nos. 2007/121037, 2008/09843 and 2008/09642, in US Patent Nos. 7157141, 6605673 and 6620889, as well as in US Patent Application Publication Nos. 2005/0288182, 2005/0070671, 2007/0106013 and 2006/0073969. One or more kinds of ion bonding surface-crosslinking agents can be used in combination. The use amount may be properly determined in a range of preferably 0.001 to 10 parts by mass and more preferably 0.01 to 5 parts by mass relative to 100 parts by mass of the water-absorbing resin powder.

    [0094]  In the present invention, from the viewpoint of improvement of physical properties such as liquid permeability, a polyamine polymer may be used simultaneously or separately in addition to the organic surface-crosslinking agent. A polyamine polymer having a mass average molecular weight of about 5000 to 1000000 is particularly preferably used, and examples are exemplified in US Patent No. 7098284, WO Nos. 2006/082188, 2006/082189, 2006/082197, 2006/111402, 2006/111403 and 2006/111404.

    [0095] The present invention can provide a water-absorbing resin with high whiteness even by high temperature heating or heating treatment with air (hot air) which conventionally causes intense coloration. In the case of aiming at providing particularly a sanitary material (especially a paper diaper), it is preferable to improve the absorption capacity under load (AAP) described later to the following range, preferably not less than 20 g/g by a surface-crosslinking treatment.

    [0096] At the time of mixing the surface-crosslinking agent, water is preferably used as a solvent. The use amount of water may be properly determined in a range of preferably 0.5 to 20 parts by mass and more preferably 0.5 to 10 parts by mass relative to 100 parts by mass of the water-absorbing resin powder. A hydrophilic organic solvent may be used in combination if necessary, other than water, and its use amount may be properly determined in a range of preferably 0 to 10 parts by mass and more preferably 0 to 5 parts by mass relative to 100 parts by mass of the water-absorbing resin powder.

    [0097] Further, at the time of mixing a surface-crosslinking agent solution, a water-insoluble fine particle powder and a surfactant are allowed to coexist to an extent that the effect of the present invention is not hindered. The types and the use amount of the water-insoluble fine particle powder and surfactant are described in, for example, US Patent No. 7473739, and the use amount may be properly determined in a range of preferably 0 to 10 parts by mass, more preferably 0 to 5 parts by mass, and still more preferably 0 to 1 part by mass relative to 100 parts by mass of the water-absorbing resin powder.

    (b) Heating treatment step



    [0098] In the surface-crosslinking step, after the water-absorbing resin powder and a surface-crosslinking agent are mixed, the mixture is preferably subjected to a heating treatment and thereafter to a cooling treatment if necessary. A conventionally known dryer is used for the heating treatment and the above-mentioned stopping method of the present invention is preferably applied. The heating temperature (which is a heat medium temperature or a material temperature, particularly a material temperature) at the time of the heating treatment may be properly determined in accordance with the type and amount of the surface-crosslinking agent to be used and it is preferably 70 to 300°C, more preferably 120 to 250°C, still more preferably 150 to 250°C, and particularly preferably 170 to 230°C. In the case a dehydration reactive surface-crosslinking agent is used, the heating temperature is preferably 150 to 250°C and more preferably 170 to 230°C. In the case the treatment temperature is lower than 70°C, the heating treatment time is extended and it results in decrease of the productivity and further it becomes impossible to form a uniform surface-crosslinked layer and, therefore, it is not preferable. In the case the treatment temperature exceeds 300°C, the water-absorbing resin powder is deteriorated and, therefore, it is not preferable. The heating time for the heating treatment is preferably in a range of 1 minute to 2 hours. The heating treatment can be carried out in a common dryer or a heating furnace. The methods of surface-crosslinking described in EP Patent Nos. 0349240, 0605150, 0450923, 0812873, 0450924 and 0668080, Japan Patent Application Publication Nos. 7-242709 and 7-224304, US Patent Nos. 5409771, 5597873, 5385983, 5610220, 5633316, 5674633 and 5462972, and WO Nos.99/42494, 99/43720 and 99/42496 can be employed preferably in the present invention.

    (Heating treatment apparatus)



    [0099] Various kinds of heating treatment apparatuses such as a fluidized bed heating treatment apparatus, a belt type heating treatment apparatus, a paddle type heating treatment apparatus, a disk type heating treatment apparatus, a hot air heating treatment apparatus, and an infrared heating treatment apparatus can be used as the heating treatment apparatus of the present invention. Among them, a paddle type heating treatment apparatus is preferable and a disk type heating treatment apparatus is particularly preferable. Specific examples thereof include a Bepex-heating treatment apparatus and a Nara-heating treatment apparatus. In this description, for convenience, the term "heating treatment apparatus" is employed, but it is same as a dryer. The heating treatment can be carried out by heating a jacket or blowing hot air in the heating treatment apparatus itself. A dryer connected successively, for example, a box type dryer, a rotary tubular furnace, or a heatable screw is also proper.

    [0100] The heating temperature in the heating treatment step is preferably 70 to 300°C, more preferably 120 to 250°C, still more preferably 150 to 250°C, and particularly preferably 170 to 230°C. The heating time for the heating treatment is preferably in a range of 1 minute to 2 hours, more preferably in a range of 5 minutes to 1 hour.

    [0101] As the heating treatment apparatus in the heating treatment step, it is preferable to use a transverse type continuous stirring apparatus having a charging inlet and a discharge outlet for a water absorbent resin powder, as well as a stirring means including one or more rotary shafts equipped with a plurality of stirring disks and a heating means. In that case, the stirring power index of the transverse type continuous stirring apparatus is preferable to set to 3 to 15 [W•hr/kg]. The stirring power index is a value calculated from the following numerical expression and is an indicator for determining stable productivity of the water-absorbing resin in a case of expansion of the scale (particularly, not less than 1 [t/hr]).



    [0102] The stirring power index can be easily calculated from the power consumption of apparatus at the time of surface treatment and the power consumption at the time of idling, and is more preferably in a range of 4 to 13 [W•hr/kg], still more preferably 5 to 11 [W•hr/kg], particularly preferably 5 to 10 [W•hr/kg], and most preferably 5 to 9 [W•hr/kg]. If this index exceeds 15 [W•hr/kg], the physical properties (particularly, liquid permeability) are deteriorated and, on the other hand, if it is under 3 [W•hr/kg], the physical properties (particularly, absorption capacity under load) are also deteriorated. The stirring power index can be determined properly in consideration of adjustment of the supply amount and discharge amount of the water absorbent resin, the particle size or bulk specific gravity of the water absorbent resin, the rotation speed and shape of the apparatus, the composition of the surface treatment agent, and the retention time.

    (Dry air)



    [0103] At the time of interruption of the heating treatment step in the present invention, from the viewpoint of retention of physical properties of the water-absorbing resin and suppression of the blocking phenomenon, it is preferable to inject dry air into the heating treatment apparatus during the interruption period of the heating treatment step. The dew point of the dry air may be not higher than 0°C (minus dew point), and is preferably -100 to -5°C, more preferably -95 to -30°C, still more preferably -90 to -35°C, and particularly preferably -85 to -40°C. A method for controlling the dew point of the air is not particularly limited and air may be properly dried by using appliances such as a membrane drier, a cooling adsorption type drier, and a diaphragm drier solely or in combination. In the case where a cooling adsorption type drier is used, it may be of heat regeneration manner, a non-heat regeneration manner, or a non-regeneration manner. To cause the effect of the present invention, it is sufficient that the temperature of air having the above-mentioned dew point is room temperature (25°C). It is preferable to carry out heating and it is more preferable to carry out heating in a manner that the heating treatment apparatus comes into the above-mentioned temperature range during the interruption period.

    (Conventional heating treatment method)



    [0104] Conventional surface-crosslinking and a heating treatment of a water-absorbing resin are disclosed in the above-mentioned Patent Documents 1 to 9 and patent documents described in the paragraphs of covalent surface-crosslinking agent and ion bonding surface-crosslinking agent. However, these documents do not disclose stopping of a heating treatment apparatus while keeping the heating treatment apparatus in a heated state.

    (c) Cooling step



    [0105] This step is a step carried out arbitrarily after the heating treatment step. In the case a dehydration reactive crosslinking agent made from a polyhydric alcohol compound, an alkylene carbonate compound, and an oxazolidinone compound, which require high temperature reaction, is used in the heating treatment step, the cooling step is preferably carried out.

    [0106] A cooling apparatus to be used in the cooling step is not particularly limited and an apparatus having the same configuration as the apparatus used for the heating treatment step can be used. That is, the apparatus may be the transverse type continuous stirring apparatus or the apparatus described in US Patent No. 7378453. For example, a biaxial stirring apparatus and the like in which cooling water is circulated in the inner wall or other heat transfer surfaces can be used. The temperature of the cooling water is adjusted to be lower than the heating treatment temperature in the surface treatment step and may be properly determined in a range of preferably not lower than 25°C and lower than 70°C. Similarly to the case of the heating treatment apparatus, the stirring power index of the cooling apparatus is preferably 3 to 15 [W·hr/kg], more preferably 4 to 13 [W·hr/kg], still more preferably 5 to 11 [W·hr/kg], particularly preferably 5 to 10 [W-hr/kg], and most preferably 5 to 9 [W-hr/kg].

    [0107] Preferable embodiments of the stirring power index and the cooling step are disclosed in Japanese Patent Application No. 2009-197063 (Application date: August 27, 2009) and Japanese Patent Application No. 2009-196967 (Application date: August 27, 2009) and their priority applications.

    (d) Periodical shielding



    [0108] From the viewpoint of stability of physical properties and physical property improvement by surface-crosslinking, it is preferable to periodically shield between the surface-crosslinking step and the second classification step. The periodical shielding may be carried out at intervals of preferably 0.001 to 5 minutes, more preferably 0.01 to 1 minute, and still more preferably 0.05 to 0.5 minutes. The water-absorbing resin is transferred periodically, that is, intermittently (On-Off) between continuous apparatuses (the mixer, the heating treatment apparatus, and if necessary, the cooling apparatus). The periodical shielding may be carried out between a heating apparatus and an arbitrary cooling apparatus (the cooling step).

    [0109] The periodical shielding is disclosed in JP-A-2009-197022 (Application date: August 27, 2009) and its priority application.

    (2-6) Fine powder recycling step



    [0110] The fine powder recycling step in the present invention is a step of recycling a fine powder (particularly, a fine powder containing particles not larger than 150 µm as a main component in an amount of particularly not less than 70 mass %) obtained by drying and if necessary pulverizing and classification to the polymerization step or the drying step after separation as it is or after hydration. For example, methods described in US Patent Application Publication No. 2006/247351 and US Patent No. 6228930 can be employed.

    [0111] The particle size can be controlled by adding the recycled fine powder and additionally, a high solid content, which is indispensable in the present invention, can be easily be achieved by adding a water-absorbing resin powder and further, and an addition of the fine powder makes separation of the water-absorbing resin from a drying belt after drying easy and, therefore, it is preferable.

    [0112] Regarding a water-absorbing resin obtained by a production process involving a fine powder recycling step, in a conventional production process, because of uneven drying due to the addition of the fine powder, increase of residual monomers and decrease of absorption capacity, it has been difficult to obtain a water-absorbing resin with high physical properties. On the other hand, in the production process of the present invention, particularly in the case the process for producing a water-absorbing resin involves the fine powder recycling step, the process is excellent in the effect of preventing physical property deterioration and preventing coloration. That is, it is preferable that the solid content of the hydrogel is increased to not less than 45 mass %, not less than 50 mass %, not less than 55 mass %, and not less than 60 mass % by evaporating water or adding a water-absorbing resin fine powder in the polymerization step. The increase of the solid content from the monomer (solid content of hydrogel after polymerization - mass % of monomer before polymerization) is preferably not less than 1 mass %, further 2 to 40 mass %, and particularly preferably in a range of 3 to 30 mass %. It is also preferable to add a step of recycling the water-absorbing resin fine powder after drying or its moisturized product to the polymerization step or drying step.

    (2-7) Other steps (and stopping of heating)



    [0113] Besides the above-mentioned continuous steps, if necessary, a surface treatment step for a polyvalent metal salt, a recycling step of the evaporated monomer, a granulation step and a fine powder removal step (the second classification step) may be provided. In order to cause an effect for color stabilization with time and to prevent gel deterioration, the above-mentioned additives may be added to some or all of the respective steps if necessary. The production process of the present invention preferably involves the fine powder recycling step.

    [0114] During polymerization or after polymerization, a water-soluble or water-insoluble polymer, a lubricant, a chelating agent, a deodorant, an antibacterial agent, water, a surfactant, water-insoluble fine particles, an antioxidant, a reducing agent, etc. may be added and mixed in an amount of 0 to 30 mass % and further about 0.01 to 10 mass % to the water-absorbing resin particles. These additives may also be used as a surface treatment agent.

    [0115] One or more steps such as a conveying step, a storage step, a packaging step, and an addition step of adding other additives (fine particles, a deodorant or an antibacterial agent) may also be preferably carried out. These steps are described in Patent Documents 1 to 10 etc. and the stopping after the drying step is carried out in the heated state, preferably at not lower than 50°C and further not lower than 60°C. The upper limit of the heating temperature is not higher than 140°C, further not higher than 120°C, and particularly not higher than 100°C, from the viewpoint of the cost and coloration. The above-mentioned minus dew point is also preferably employed. The stopping of these steps means a state where an apparatus is unused, that is, a state where the water-absorbing resin is substantially absent and the water-absorbing resin is not supplied to and discharged out of an apparatus in each step.

    [0116] That is, in the present invention, the surface treatment step (especially the surface-crosslinking step) is stopped in a heated state; preferably, the drying step and the surface treatment step (especially the surface-crosslinking step) are stopped in a heated state; and more preferably, other steps (especially all steps) after the surface treatment step in addition to the drying step and the surface treatment step (especially the surface-crosslinking step) are stopped in a heated state. It is made possible to restart operation without any trouble and carry out stable operation by stopping in the heated state.

    [3] Physical properties of water-absorbing resin



    [0117] The water-absorbing resin of the present invention contains a polyacrylic acid (salt)-type water-absorbing resin as a main component and obtained by the above-mentioned polymerization method, surface-crosslinking method, and the like, in the case where the water-absorbing resin is used for sanitary goods, particularly paper diapers. The obtained water-absorbing resin is preferable to control at least one of the following (3-1) to (3-6), further two or more including AAP, and particularly three or more. In the case the water-absorbing resin does not satisfy the following respective physical properties, there is a possibility that high concentration diapers containing not less than 40 mass % of the water-absorbing resin cannot sufficiently exhibit the performance.

    (3-1) CRC (Absorption capacity without load)



    [0118] The CRC (absorption capacity without load) of the water-absorbing resin to be obtained by the present invention is preferably 10 [g/g] or higher, more preferably 20 [g/g] or higher, still more preferably 25 [g/g] or higher, and particularly preferably 30 [g/g] or higher. The upper limit of the CRC is not particularly limited, is preferably 50 [g/g] or lower, more preferably 45 [g/g] or lower, still more preferably 40 [g/g] or lower. In the case the CRC is lower than 10 [g/g], the water absorption amount of the water-absorbing resin is small and the water-absorbing resin is possibly unsuitable for use for an absorbent body in sanitary goods such as paper diapers. In the case the CRC exceeds 50 [g/g], if the water-absorbing resin is used for such an absorbent body, it may possibly become impossible to obtain sanitary goods excellent in liquid intake speed and, therefore, it is not preferable. The CRC can be properly controlled by the above-mentioned internal crosslinking agent and the surface-crosslinking agent.

    (3-2) AAP (Absorption capacity under load)



    [0119] The AAP (absorption capacity under load) of the water-absorbing resin to be obtained by the present invention is preferably not lower than 20 [g/g], more preferably not lower than 22 [g/g], and still more preferably not lower than 24 [g/g] at a pressure of 4.83 kPa (0.7 psi) by employing the heating treatment as an accomplishing means in order to prevent leakage in paper diapers. The upper limit of the AAP is not particularly limited; however, from the viewpoint of balance with other physical properties, it is preferably not higher than 40 [g/g]. In the case the AAP is lower than 20 [g/g], if the water-absorbing resin is used for an absorbent body, it may possibly become impossible to obtain sanitary goods with little liquid return (generally, also referred to as "Re-Wet") at the time a pressure is applied to the absorbent body and it is not preferable. The AAP can be properly controlled by the above-mentioned surface-crosslinking agent and the particle size.

    (3-3) SFC (saline flow conductivity)



    [0120] The SFC (saline flow conductivity) of the water-absorbing resin to be obtained by the present invention, which is a liquid permeability under pressure, is preferably 1 [× 10-7·cm3·s·g-1] or higher, more preferably 10 [× 10-7·cm3·s·g-1] or higher, still more preferably 50 [× 10-7·CM3·s·g-1] or higher, particularly preferably 70 [× 10-7·cm3·s·g-1] or higher, and most preferably 100 [× 10-7·cm3·s·g-1] or higher by employing the heating treatment as an accomplishing means in order to prevent leakage in paper diapers. The upper limit of the SFC is not particularly limited; however, from the viewpoint of balance with other physical properties, it is preferably not higher than 3000 [× 10-7·cm3·s·g-1], more preferably not higher than 2000 [× 10-7·cm3·s·g-1] In the case the SFC exceeds 3000 [× 10-7·cm3·s·g-1] if the water-absorbing resin is used for such an absorber, liquid leakage may possibly occur in the absorber and, therefore, it is not preferable. The SFC can be properly controlled by the above-mentioned drying method.

    (3-4) EXT (Amount of water soluble components)



    [0121] The EXT (amount of water soluble components) of the water-absorbing resin to be obtained by the present invention is preferably 35 mass % or lower, more preferably 25 mass % or lower, still more preferably 15 mass % or lower, and particularly preferably 10 mass % or lower. In the case the Ext exceeds 35 mass %, the water-absorbing resin to be obtained may possibly become weak in the gel strength and inferior in the liquid permeability. If such a water-absorbing resin is used for an absorber, it may possibly become impossible to obtain a water-absorbing resin with little liquid return (re-wet) at the time a pressure is applied to the absorber and it is not preferable. The Ext can be properly controlled by the above-mentioned internal crosslinking agent.

    (3-5) Residual monomer



    [0122] The residual monomer amount of the water-absorbing resin to be obtained by the present invention, from the viewpoint of safety, is controlled to be preferably 0 to 400 ppm, more preferably 0 to 300 ppm, still more preferably 0 to 200 ppm. The residual monomer amount is controlled by the above-mentioned polymerization method.

    (3-6) Initial color hue



    [0123] The water-absorbing resin to be obtained by the present invention is excellent in the initial color hue. The color hue (initial color hue) of a water-absorbing resin immediately after production obtained by the present invention shows the following numerical value. The initial color hue means the color hue immediately after production and in general, it is the color hue measured before shipment from a plant. It is also a value measured within 1 year from the production in the case of preservation in an atmosphere at not higher than 30°C and a relative humidity of not higher than 50% RH. Concretely, in a Hunter Lab system, the L value (Lightness) is preferably not lower than 85, more preferably not lower than 87, and still more preferably not lower than 89. The b value is preferably -5 to 10, more preferably -5 to 9, still more preferably -4 to 8, and particularly preferably -1 to 7. The a value is preferably -2 to 2, more preferably -1 to 1, still more preferably -0.5 to 1, and particularly preferably 0 to 1. As another chromaticity, YI (Yellow Index) value is preferably not higher than 10, more preferably not higher than 8, and particularly preferably not higher than 6. As another chromaticity, the WB (White Balance) value is preferably not lower than 70, more preferably not lower than 75, and particularly preferably not lower than 77. The water-absorbing resin obtained by the present invention is excellent in coloration with time and shows sufficient whiteness in an accelerating test carried out in high temperature and high humidity.

    [4] Use of water-absorbing resin



    [0124] Use of the water-absorbing resin obtained by the production process of the present invention is not particularly limited and the water-absorbing resin may be used for absorbing articles including sanitary goods such as paper diapers, sanitary napkins, and pads for incontinent, water retention agents for agriculture and horticulture, solidifying agents for waste liquids, and industrial water shielding materials.

    EXAMPLES



    [0125] Hereinafter, the present invention will be described in detail with reference to examples and comparative examples; however, the present invention should not be construed in a limited way based on the description of the examples. For convenience, "litter" is expressed as "L" and "mass %" as "wt %" in some cases. The various physical properties described in CLAIMS and Examples of a water-absorbing resin obtained by the present invention were measured according to EDANA method and the following measurement examples under the condition of room temperature (20 to 25°C) and a humidity of 50% RH unless otherwise specified.

    1. Initial color hue and coloration with time



    [0126] The initial color hue and coloration with time of a water-absorbing resin of the present invention were measured according to measurement methods described in WO No. 2009/005114 pamphlet.

    2. Resin solid content (solid content)



    [0127] A water-absorbing resin in an amount of 1.00 g was weighed in an aluminum cup with a bottom surface diameter of about 50 mm and the total weight W1 [g] of the sample (the water-absorbing resin and the aluminum cup) was accurately weighed.

    [0128] Next, the sample was stood still in an oven at an atmosphere temperature of 180°C and the water-absorbing resin was dried. After 3 hours, the sample in the aluminum cap was taken out of the oven and cooled to room temperature in a desiccator. Thereafter, the total weight W2 [g] of the sample (the water-absorbing resin and the aluminum cup) after drying was measured and the solid content (unit; [mass %]) was calculated according to the following expression.




    [0129] In the case of measuring the resin solid content of a particulated water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer (particulated hydrogel), the sampling amount of the particulated hydrogel was changed to be 2 to 4 g and the drying time was changed to be 24 hours.

    3. SFC (saline flow conductivity)



    [0130] The SFC (saline flow conductivity) of the water-absorbing resin to be obtained by the present invention was measured according to the description in the specification of US Patent No. 5669894.

    4. Other physical properties



    [0131] The physical properties of a water-absorbing resin to be obtained by the present invention, that is, CRC (absorption capacity without load), particle size distribution, pH soluble matter, remaining acrylic acid amount, and the like, were measured according to ERT of EDANA or the description in the specification of US Patent Application Publication No. 2006/204755.

    [Production Example 1]



    [0132] A water-absorbing resin (A) was produced by employing continuous production apparatuses for carrying out a continuous polymerization step, a drying step by a band dryer, a pulverizing step, a classification step, a surface treatment step (wetting and mixing step, heating step, and cooling step), a particle regulation step, and a conveying step for joining the respective steps.

    [0133] That is, 0.04 g of sodium persulfate (to 1 mol of monomer) and 100 ppm of diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid pentasodium salt were continuously mixed by line mixing with an aqueous solution of acrylic acid sodium salt partially neutralized in an amount of 70 mol% (monomer concentration: 53 mass %) containing 0.03 mol% (based on monomer) of polyethylene glycol diacrylate (average molecular weight: 478) as an internal crosslinking agent and the mixture was supplied to a belt polymerization apparatus and subjected to aqueous solution polymerization. The hydrogel obtained in this manner was crushed by a vertical crusher (manufactured by Orient Co., Ltd., screen of 12 mm) to obtain a particulated water-containing gel-like polymer (A) containing 70 mass % of solid content and having fluidity.

    [0134] The particulated water-containing gel-like polymer (A) was continuously layered by using a traverse feeder for a continuous ventilating belt type dryer on a punching metal of a continuous ventilating belt which was continuously operated by controlling the sequence of the traverse feeder and continuously dried on the ventilating belt for 35 minutes. The discharge amount (treatment amount) of the dried material was 1.7 [t/hr]. The dying apparatus and drying condition were as shown in the following (a) to (c).

    (a) Belt type dryer



    [0135] A dryer used was a continuous ventilating dryer having 6 drying chambers in total which can independently adjust the hot air temperature and which have the same size and in which a ventilating belt passes. The hydrogel passed in about 5.8 minutes (= 35 min/6 chambers on the belt) in the respective 6 drying chambers.

    (b) Hot air temperature and linear velocity



    [0136] The hot air temperature of the drying chambers was heated to be 180°C by steam and the linear velocity of the hot air was set to be 1.6 m/s. The blow direction of the first chamber was upward from the bottom surface and the blow direction of the second to the sixth chambers was set downward to the bottom surface from an upper part of the dryer.

    (c) Ventilating belt



    [0137] The ventilating belt used was a stainless steel belt (band) made of SUS 304 and having long round holes with a width of 1.2 mm and a length of 15 mm in a zigzag arrangement and a porosity of 27%. The particulated water-containing gel-like polymer (A) was agglomerated like blocks after drying. After loosened into several millimeters, the entire amount of the loosened dried product was continuously supplied to a roll mill (roll gaps: 1.0 mm/0.55 mm/0.42 mm from the upper side) and pulverized and classified with a sieving apparatus having a metal sieving net with meshes of 850 µm to obtain a water-absorbing resin powder (A).

    [0138] The water-absorbing resin powder (A) was continuously supplied to a high speed continuous mixing apparatus (Turbulizer; 1000 rpm) by pneumatic transportation (temperature 35°C and dew point -15°C) from the classifying apparatus at 1.5 t/hr and at the same time a surface treatment agent solution (1) was mixed by spraying (wetting and mixing step). The surface treatment agent solution (1) was a mixed solution containing 1,4-butanediol, propylene glycol, and pure water. The surface treatment agent solution (1) was mixed with the water-absorbing resin powder (A) at a ratio of 0.3 parts by mass of 1,4-butanediol, 0.5 parts by mass of propylene glycol, and 2.7 parts by mass of pure water relative to 100 parts by mass of the water-absorbing resin powder (A) to give a mixture (A), a wet powder.

    [0139] The obtained mixture (A) was then surface-treated by a transverse type continuous stirring apparatus (1) (paddle type heating treatment apparatus) having a downward inclined angle of 1°, an aspect ratio of 2.2, a paddle rotation speed of 13 rpm, scraping blades, two rotary shafts having a surface roughness (Rz) of the inner surface of 500 nm (heating treatment step). At that time, the inside of the apparatus (1) was suctioned by a suctioning gas discharge apparatus having a bag filter, and the inside pressure of the apparatus was reduced to 1 kPa. A rotary valve (periodically shielding apparatus) was installed in the inlet and outlet of the apparatus (1). According to a previous test, the position of a discharge bank which gave an average retention time of about 45 minutes and an average filling ratio of 75% was obtained, and the discharge bank was set at the position as obtained. A heating source used for the surface treatment was pressurized steam at 2.5 MPa, and the atmosphere temperature in the apparatus was measured by a thermometer installed near the discharge part of the transverse type continuous stirring apparatus (1), and the steam flow rate was controlled to carry out the heating in such a manner that the temperature was adjusted to 198°C. The total surface area of the stirring disks and the stirring shafts was 24.4 m2 and the mass surface area ratio calculated from the total surface area (heat transfer surface area) and the treatment amount was 61.5 [kg/m2/hr] The stirring power at the time of the surface treatment was 27.8 kW, the stirring power in idling was 13.5 kW, the average retention time was 45 minutes, and the stirring power index was 9.5 [W•hr/kg]. Using same transverse type continuous stirring apparatus so that the water absorbent resin was forcibly cooled to 60°C (cooling step).

    [0140]  The water-absorbing resin (A) which was a adjusted substance all under 850 µm was obtained by carrying out classification by a sieving apparatus to separate the substance under 850 µm and mixing the substance on 850 µm (substance that did not pass through 850 µm) after pulverized again with the substance under 850 µm. The physical properties of the water-absorbing resin (A) are shown in Table 2.

    [Comparative Example 1]



    [0141] After the continuous polymerization, the continuous drying, the continuous pulverizing classification, and the continuous surface treatment in the Production Example 1 were carried out continuously for 20 days, operation of all of the apparatuses including the heating of the paddle type heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus (198°C) was stopped for 48 hours in order to change the product (change the internal crosslinking agent). After 48 hours, the atmosphere temperature in the heating treatment apparatus was increased from room temperature (25°C) to 198°C and then the continuous operation was restarted to continuously produce a water-absorbing resin. In this case, a colored foreign matter was mixed into the water-absorbing resin at the beginning of the restarted operation and an excess load (increase of power consumption) on the paddle type heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus) was found at the time of restarting of the operation.

    [Example 1]



    [0142] In Comparative Example 1, the atmosphere temperature was changed to be 120°C during the time of stopping the paddle type heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). That is, the operation was carried out in the same manner as in Comparative Example 1, except that at the time of stopping of the continuous production, the heating temperature (the atmosphere temperature measured by a thermometer installed near the discharge part) of the stopped paddle type heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus) was controlled to be 120°C from 180°C by adjusting the steam flow rate and the atmosphere temperature in the inside of the heating treatment apparatus was increased to be 198°C from 120°C after 48 hours from the stopping of the step to restart the continuous operation. When a water-absorbing resin with 0.1 mol% of the internal crosslinking agent was continuously produced, no foreign matter was generated at the beginning of operation and no excess load (increase of power consumption) was found on the transverse type continuous stirring apparatus.

    [Example 2]



    [0143] In Example 1, the operation was carried out in the same manner as in Example 1, except that dry air with a dew point of -30°C was injected to the heating treatment apparatus at the time of stopping of the paddle type heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). No foreign matter was generated at the beginning of operation and no excess load (increase of power consumption) was found at the time of restarting of the heating treatment apparatus.

    [0144]  The operation conditions and occurrence of malfunctions in Comparative Example 1 and Examples 1 and 2 are collectively shown in the following Table 1.
    [Table 1]
     Stopped apparatusTemperature in the stopping period [°C]Period of stopping [hr]Excess load at restartingAbnormal noiseForeign matter
    Comparative Example 1 Paddle type heating treatment apparatus Room Temperature 48 Found Generated Generated
    Example 1 120 None None None
    Example 2 120 None None None

    [Comparative Example 2]



    [0145] In Production Example 1, on the 10th day after the continuous operation was started, because of a trouble in a cooling apparatus installed downstream of the paddle type heating treatment apparatus, operations of all of the apparatuses including heating (198°C) were stopped while the water-absorbing resin powder was left in the inside of the heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). When the continuous operation was restarted and the water-absorbing resin was continuously produced after the atmosphere temperature in the inside of the heating treatment apparatus was increased from room temperature (25°C) to 198°C after 48 hours, foreign matters were mixed at the beginning of operation and an excess load (increase of power consumption) was found at the time of restarting of the operation of the heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). The substance on 850 µm (substance that did not pass through 850 µm) was increased. Table 2 shows the physical properties of the comparative water-absorbing resin (2) 5 hours after the restarting of the operation.

    [Example 3]



    [0146] In Comparative Example 2, the temperature was changed to be 120°C during the time of stopping the paddle type heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). That is, the same operation as the operation in Comparative Example 2 was carried out, except that at the time of stopping continuous production, the heating temperature of the heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus) was lowered to 120°C from 198°C. When the continuous operation was restarted and the water-absorbing resin was continuously produced after the atmosphere temperature in the inside of the heating treatment apparatus was increased from 120°C to 198°C after 48 hours, no foreign matter was generated at the beginning of the operation and no excess load (increase of power consumption) was found at the time of restarting of the operation of the heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). Table 2 shows the physical properties of the water-absorbing resin (3) as a product 5 hours after the restarting of the operation.

    [Example 4] (not according to the invention)



    [0147] In Example 3, the temperature was changed to be 198°C during the time of stopping the paddle type heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). That is, the same operation as the operation in Example 3 was carried out, except that at the time of stopping continuous production, the heating temperature of the heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus) was kept to be 198°C as it was. When the continuous operation was restarted and the water-absorbing resin was continuously produced at the atmosphere temperature in the inside of the heating treatment apparatus of 198°C after 48 hours, no foreign matter was generated at the beginning of the operation and no excess load (increase of power consumption) was found at the time of restarting of the operation of the heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). However, the water-absorbing resin in the inside of the heating treatment apparatus was yellowed. Table 2 shows the physical properties of the water-absorbing resin (4) as a product 5 hours after the restarting of the operation.

    [Production Example 2]



    [0148] In Production Example 2, a water-absorbing resin (B) was produced by carrying out the same operation as the operation in Production Example 1, except that a surface treatment agent solution (2) obtained by additionally adding 1 part by mass of an aqueous solution of 27% aluminum sulfate to the surface treatment agent solution (1) was used. The physical properties of the obtained water-absorbing resin (B) are shown in Table 2.

    [Comparative Example 3]



    [0149] In Production Example 2, on the 10th day after the continuous operation was started, because of a trouble in a cooling apparatus installed downstream of the paddle type heating treatment apparatus, operations of all of the apparatuses including heating (198°C) were stopped while the water-absorbing resin powder was left in the inside of the heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). When the continuous operation was restarted and the water-absorbing resin was continuously produced after the atmosphere temperature in the inside of the heating treatment apparatus was increased from room temperature (25°C) to 198°C after 48 hours, foreign matters were mixed at the beginning of operation and an excess load (increase of power consumption) was found at the time of restarting of the operation of the heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). The substance on 850 µm (substance that did not pass through 850 µm) was increased. Table 2 shows the physical properties of the comparative water-absorbing resin (3) 5 hours after the restarting of the operation.

    [Example 5]



    [0150] In Comparative Example 3, the temperature was changed to be 120°C during the time of stopping the paddle type heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). That is, the same operation as the operation in Comparative Example 3 was carried out, except that at the time of stopping continuous production, the heating temperature of the heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus) was lowered to 120°C from 198°C. When the continuous operation was restarted and the water-absorbing resin was continuously produced after the atmosphere temperature in the inside of the heating treatment apparatus was increased from 120°C to 198°C after 48 hours, no foreign matter was generated at the beginning of the operation and no excess load (increase of power consumption) was found at the time of restarting of the operation of the heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). Table 2 shows the physical properties of the water-absorbing resin (5) as a product 5 hours after the restarting of the operation.

    [Production Example 3]



    [0151] In Production Example 3, a water-absorbing resin (C) was produced by carrying out the same operation as the operation in Production Example 1, except that a surface treatment agent solution (3) consisting of 1.0 part by mass of ethylene carbonate and 3.0 parts by mass of pure water was used in place of the surface treatment agent solution (1) and the average retention time in the heating treatment apparatus was changed to be 50 minutes. The physical properties of the water-absorbing resin (C) are shown in Table 2.

    [Comparative Example 4]



    [0152] In Production Example 3, on the 20th day after the continuous operation was started, because of a trouble in a cooling apparatus installed downstream of the paddle type heating treatment apparatus, operations of all of the apparatuses including heating (198°C) were stopped while the water-absorbing resin powder was left in the inside of the heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). When the continuous operation was restarted and the water-absorbing resin was continuously produced after the atmosphere temperature in the inside of the heating treatment apparatus was increased from room temperature (25°C) to 198°C after 60 hours, foreign matters were mixed at the beginning of operation and an excess load (increase of power consumption) was found at the time of restarting of the operation of the heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). The substance on 850 µm (substance that did not pass through 850 µm) was increased. Table 2 shows the physical properties of the comparative water-absorbing resin (4) 5 hours after the restarting of the operation.

    [Example 6]



    [0153] In Comparative Example 4, the temperature was changed to be 120°C during the time of stopping the paddle type heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). That is, the same operation as the operation in Comparative Example 4 was carried out, except that at the time of stopping continuous production, the heating temperature of the heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus) was lowered to 120°C from 198°C. When the continuous operation was restarted and the water-absorbing resin was continuously produced after the atmosphere temperature in the inside of the heating treatment apparatus was increased from 120°C to 198°C after 60 hours, no foreign matter was generated at the beginning of the operation and no excess load (increase of power consumption) was found at the time of restarting of the operation of the heating treatment apparatus (transverse type continuous stirring apparatus). Table 2 shows the physical properties of the water-absorbing resin (6) as a product 5 hours after the restarting of the operation.
    [Table 2]
       Absorption capacity without load CRCAbsorption capacity under load AAPSaline flow conductivity SFC
    [g/g][g/g][×10-7·cm·s·g-1]
    Production Example 1 Water-absorbing resin (A) Steady operation 26.5 23.3 70
    Comparative Example 2 Comparative water-absorbing resin (2) 5 hours after restarting of the operation 26.8 23.1 55
    Example 3 Water-absorbing resin (3) 5 hours after restarting of the operation 26.4 23.2 68
    Example 4 Water-absorbing resin (4) 5 hours after restarting of the operation 26.1 22.9 70
    Production Example 2 Water-absorbing resin (B) Steady operation 26.6 22.6 107
    Comparative Example 3 Comparative water-absorbing resin (3) 5 hours after restarting of the operation 26.6 22.3 81
    Example 5 Water-absorbing resin (5) 5 hours after restarting of the operation 26.6 22.6 105
    Production Example 3 Water-absorbing resin (C) Steady operation 26.6 23.0 73
    Comparative Example 4 Comparative water-absorbing resin (4) 5 hours after restarting of the operation 27.0 22.7 61
    Example 6 Water-absorbing resin (6) 5 hours after restarting of the operation 26.5 23.0 72


    [0154] As shown in Table 1 and Table 2, deterioration of the physical properties (particularly saline flow conductivity) of the water-absorbing resin after restarting of the operation was observed in Comparative Example 2 (temperature at the time of stopping was room temperature) and it took 1 to several days until the physical properties were stabilized. On the other hand, substantially no deterioration of the physical properties at the time of restarting of the operation was observed by keeping the heating state during the stopping as in Example 3 (the temperature at the time of stopping was 120°C) and Example 4 (the temperature at the time of stopping was 190°C) and thereafter restarting the operation. This effect was confirmed in the case where the surface-crosslinking agents were changed (comparison between Comparative Example 3 and Example 5 and comparison between Comparative Example 4 and Example 6).

    [0155] In the production process of the present invention, the physical properties can be quickly stabilized after restarting of the operation by keeping the apparatus in a heated state during the interruption of the operation and, therefore, it is made possible to carry out continuous production (preferably for not shorter than 10 days) of a water-absorbing resin in a huge scale (preferably not less than 1 [t/hr]). The conventional production processes described in Patent Documents 1 to 9 and in patent documents described in the paragraphs of the covalent surface-crosslinking agent and ion bonding surface-crosslinking agent do not at all imply the stopping method and its effect of the present invention.

    INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY



    [0156] A water-absorbing resin free from coloration and a foreign matter can be produced economically and stably by continuous production in a huge scale (e.g., 1 [t/hr] or more) and the water-absorbing resin of the present invention can be used for various kinds of sanitary materials such as paper diapers and sanitary napkins and also for various applications.


    Claims

    1. A process for producing a water-absorbing resin comprising a polymerization step of polymerizing an aqueous unsaturated monomer solution, a drying step of drying a particulated water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer obtained in a finely crushing step during the polymerization or after the polymerization, a pulverizing step after the drying, a classification step after the drying, and a surface treatment step for the water-absorbing resin powder after the classification step, wherein
    the surface treatment step is interrupted with a heating treatment apparatus kept in a heated state and thereafter the surface treatment step is restarted,
    the temperature of the heating treatment apparatus during the interruption time of the surface treatment step is 40 to 140°C and is lower than the heating treatment temperature by 10°C or more, and
    the interruption of the surface treatment step means a state where the water-absorbing resin powder is substantially absent in the heating treatment apparatus, or not charged to or not discharged out of the heating treatment apparatus in the continuous surface treatment.
     
    2. The production process according to claim 1, wherein the surface treatment step is surface-crosslinking by a heating reaction.
     
    3. The production process according to claim 1 or 2, wherein the heating treatment apparatus is a transverse type continuous stirring apparatus having a charging inlet and a discharge outlet for a water absorbent resin powder, as well as a stirring means including one or more of rotary shafts equipped with a plurality of stirring disks and a heating means, and the apparatus is stopped in a heated state.
     
    4. The production process according to any one of claims 1 to 3, wherein the interruption time of the surface treatment step is not shorter than 0.5 hours and within 100 days.
     
    5. The production process according to any one of claims 1 to 4, wherein the temperature of the heating treatment apparatus during the interruption time of the surface treatment step is 80 to 140°C.
     
    6. The production process according to any one of claims 1 to 5, wherein the water-absorbing resin fine particles obtained in the classification step are recycled to the particulated water-containing gel-like crosslinked polymer before the drying.
     
    7. The production process according to any one of claims 1 to 6, wherein the water-absorbing resin powder is subjected to the surface treatment at not less than 1 [t/hr] in the surface treatment step.
     
    8. The production process according to any one of claims 1 to 7, wherein heating of the heating treatment apparatus during the interruption time of the surface treatment step is carried out by heated steam or hot air.
     
    9. The production process according to claim 8, wherein the heated steam is recycled.
     
    10. The production process according to any one of claims 1 to 9, further comprising, after the surface treatment step, a second classification step after the surface-crosslinking, and/or a fine powder recovery step after the classification step.
     
    11. The production process according to any one of claims 1 to 10, wherein a gas having a dew point of -100 to -5°C is injected into the heating treatment apparatus during the interruption time of the surface treatment step.
     
    12. The production process according to any one of claims 1 to 11, wherein the surface treatment step is continuous surface treatment for not shorter than 24 hours.
     
    13. The production process according to any one of claims 1 to 12, wherein a surface-crosslinking agent to be used in the surface treatment step is a dehydration reactive surface-crosslinking agent.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Verfahren zur Herstellung eines wasserabsorbierenden Harzes, umfassend einen Polymerisationsschritt in Form des Polymerisierens einer wässrigen Lösung eines ungesättigten Monomers, einen Trocknungsschritt in Form des Trocknens eines teilchenförmigen, wasserhaltigen, gelartigen, vernetzten Polymers, welches im Rahmen eines Feinzerkleinerungsschritts während der Polymerisation oder nach der Polymerisation erhalten worden ist, einen Pulverisierungsschritt nach dem Trocknen, einen Klassifizierungsschritt nach dem Trocknen, und einen Oberflächenbehandlungsschritt für das wasserabsorbierende Harzpulver nach dem Klassifizierungsschritt, wobei
    der Oberflächenbehandlungsschritt unterbrochen und hierbei eine Wärmebehandlungsvorrichtung in einem erwärmten Zustand gehalten wird, und der Oberflächenbehandlungsschritt danach erneut gestartet wird,
    die Temperatur der Wärmebehandlungsvorrichtung während der Unterbrechungsdauer des Oberflächenbehandlungsschritts 40 bis 140°C beträgt und 10°C oder mehr unterhalb der Wärmebehandlungstemperatur liegt, und
    die Unterbrechung des Oberflächenbehandlungsschritts einen Zustand darstellt, in welchem das wasserabsorbierende Harzpulver im Wesentlichen nicht in der Wärmebehandlungsvorrichtung vorhanden ist, oder im Rahmen der kontinuierlichen Oberflächenbehandlung nicht in die Wärmebehandlungsvorrichtung eingebracht oder nicht aus der Wärmebehandlungsvorrichtung ausgebracht wird.
     
    2. Herstellungsverfahren gemäß Anspruch 1, wobei der Oberflächenbehandlungsschritt eine durch eine Wärmereaktion vermittelte Oberflächenvernetzung vorsieht.
     
    3. Herstellungsverfahren gemäß Anspruch 1 oder 2, wobei es sich bei der Wärmebehandlungsvorrichtung um eine kontinuierliche Rührvorrichtung vom Transversaltyp handelt, welche eine Einlassöffnung und eine Ablassöffnung für ein wasserabsorbierendes Harzpulver sowie ein Rührmittel aufweist, wobei das Rührmittel eine oder mehrere Drehwellen umfasst, die mit einer Vielzahl von Rührscheiben und einem Wärmemittel ausgestattet sind, und wobei die Vorrichtung in einem erwärmten Zustand angehalten wird.
     
    4. Herstellungsverfahren gemäß einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 3, wobei die Unterbrechungsdauer des Oberflächenbehandlungsschritts nicht weniger als 0.5 Stunden beträgt und 100 Tage nicht übersteigt.
     
    5. Herstellungsverfahren gemäß einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 4, wobei die Temperatur der Wärmebehandlungsvorrichtung während der Unterbrechungsdauer des Oberflächenbehandlungsschritts 80 bis 140°C beträgt.
     
    6. Herstellungsverfahren gemäß einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 5, wobei die im Rahmen des Klassifizierungsschritts erhaltenen wasserabsorbierenden Harzfeinpartikel vor der Trocknung zu dem teilchenförmigen, wasserhaltigen, gelartigen, vernetzten Polymer zurückgeführt werden.
     
    7. Herstellungsverfahren gemäß einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 6, wobei das wasserabsorbierende Harzpulver im Rahmen des Oberflächenbehandlungsschritts in einer Menge von nicht weniger als 1 [t/hr] der Oberflächenbehandlung unterzogen wird.
     
    8. Herstellungsverfahren gemäß einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 7, wobei das Erwärmen der Wärmebehandlungsvorrichtung während der Unterbrechungsdauer des Oberflächenbehandlungsschritts mit erwärmtem Dampf oder mit Heißluft erfolgt.
     
    9. Herstellungsverfahren gemäß Anspruch 8, wobei der erwärmte Dampf wiederverwendet wird.
     
    10. Herstellungsverfahren gemäß einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 9, weiterhin umfassend, nach dem Oberflächenbehandlungsschritt, einen zweiten Klassifizierungsschritt nach der Oberflächenvernetzung, und/oder einen Feinpulver-Rückgewinnungsschritt nach dem Klassifizierungsschritt.
     
    11. Herstellungsverfahren gemäß einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 10, wobei ein Gas mit einem Taupunkt von -100 bis -5°C während der Unterbrechungsdauer des Oberflächenbehandlungsschritts in die Wärmebehandlungsvorrichtung eingespritzt wird.
     
    12. Herstellungsverfahren gemäß einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 11, wobei der Oberflächenbehandlungsschritt eine kontinuierliche Oberflächenbehandlung für nicht weniger als 24 Stunden vorsieht.
     
    13. Herstellungsverfahren gemäß einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 12, wobei es sich bei einem im Rahmen des Oberflächenbehandlungsschritts zu verwendenden Oberflächenvernetzungsmittel um ein dehydratisierend wirkendes Oberflächenvernetzungsmittel handelt.
     


    Revendications

    1. Procédé pour produire une résine absorbant l'eau comprenant une étape de polymérisation consistant à polymériser une solution aqueuse de monomère insaturé, une étape de séchage consistant à sécher un polymère réticulé de type gel contenant de l'eau particulaire obtenu dans une étape de fragmentation fine durant la polymérisation ou après la polymérisation, une étape de pulvérisation après le séchage, une étape de classification après le séchage, et une étape de traitement de surface pour la poudre de résine absorbant l'eau après l'étape de classification, dans lequel
    l'étape de traitement de surface est interrompue avec un dispositif de traitement thermique maintenu à l'état chauffé et ensuite l'étape de traitement de surface est redémarrée,
    la température du dispositif de traitement thermique durant la période d'interruption de l'étape de traitement de surface est de 40 à 140°C et est inférieure de 10°C ou plus à la température de traitement thermique, et
    l'interruption de l'étape de traitement de surface signifie un état dans lequel la poudre de résine absorbant l'eau est pratiquement absente dans le dispositif de traitement thermique, ou n'est pas chargée dans ou n'est pas évacuée hors du dispositif de traitement thermique dans le traitement de surface continu.
     
    2. Procédé de production selon la revendication 1, dans lequel l'étape de traitement de surface est une réticulation de surface par une réaction thermique.
     
    3. Procédé de production selon la revendication 1 ou 2, dans lequel le dispositif de traitement thermique est un dispositif d'agitation en continu de type transversal ayant une entrée de chargement et une sortie de décharge pour une poudre de résine absorbant l'eau, ainsi qu'un moyen d'agitation comprenant un ou plusieurs arbres rotatifs équipés d'une pluralité de disques d'agitation et un moyen de chauffage, et le dispositif est stoppé dans un état chauffé.
     
    4. Procédé de production selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 3, dans lequel la période d'interruption de l'étape de traitement de surface n'est pas plus courte que 0,5 heure et est dans les 100 jours.
     
    5. Procédé de production selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 4, dans lequel la température du dispositif de traitement thermique durant la période d'interruption de l'étape de traitement de surface est de 80 à 140°C.
     
    6. Procédé de production selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 5, dans lequel les fines particules de résine absorbant l'eau obtenues dans l'étape de classification sont recyclées vers le polymère réticulé de type gel contenant de l'eau particulaire avant le séchage.
     
    7. Procédé de production selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 6, dans lequel la poudre de résine absorbant l'eau est soumise au traitement de surface à pas moins de 1 [t/h] dans l'étape de traitement de surface.
     
    8. Procédé de production selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 7, dans lequel le chauffage du dispositif de traitement thermique durant la période d'interruption de l'étape de traitement de surface est effectué par de la vapeur chauffée ou de l'air chaud.
     
    9. Procédé de production selon la revendication 8, dans lequel la vapeur chauffée est recyclée.
     
    10. Procédé de production selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 9, comprenant en outre, après l'étape de traitement de surface, une deuxième étape de classification après la réticulation en surface, et/ou une étape de récupération de poudre fine après l'étape de classification.
     
    11. Procédé de production selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 10, dans lequel un gaz ayant un point de rosée de -100 à -5°C est injecté dans le dispositif de traitement thermique durant la période d'interruption de l'étape de traitement de surface.
     
    12. Procédé de production selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 11, dans lequel l'étape de traitement de surface est un traitement de surface continu pendant pas moins de 24 heures.
     
    13. Procédé de production selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 12, dans lequel un agent de réticulation en surface devant être utilisé dans l'étape de traitement de surface est un agent de réticulation de surface réactif vis-à-vis d'une déshydratation.
     




    Drawing








    Cited references

    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description