Polyacrylamide is an acrylate polymer (-CH2CHCONH2-) formed from acrylamide subunits that is readily cross-linked. Acrylamide needs to be handled using good laboratory practices (GLP) to avoid poisonous exposure since it is a neurotoxin. Polyacrylamide is not toxic, but unpolymerized acrylamide can be present in the polymerized acrylamide. Therefore it is recommended to handle it with caution. It is highly water-absorbent, forming a soft gel used in such applications as polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and in manufacturing soft contact lenses. It is also used as a thickener and suspending agent. More recently, it has been used as a subdermal filler for aesthetic facial surgery (see Aquamid).
It has also been advertised as a soil conditioner called Krilium by Monsanto in the 1950s and today "MP", which is stated to be a "unique formulation of PAM (water-soluble polyacrylamide)". The anionic form of polyacrylamide is frequently used as a soil conditioner on farmland and construction sites for erosion control.
The non-ionic form of Polyacrylamide has found an important role in the potable water treatment industry. Trivalent metal salts like ferric chloride and aluminum chloride are bridged by the long polymer chains of polyacrylamide. This results in significant enhancement of the flocculation rate. This allows water treatment plants to greately improve the removal of total organic content (TOC) from raw water .
- Sodium polyacrylate, a similar material