Scientists are developing a new packaging freshness coating for plastic packaging they say could help increase the shelf life of food and drink.
Researchers at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, have developed a transparent coating made from a combination of clay and polymers that can be applied to plastic packaging materials. This, they say, could help keep products fresher for longer - for example, helping fizzy drinks and sodas stay bubbly for months longer than usual.
The scientists unveiled the product at the 241st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
"This is a new, ‘outside of the box' technology that gives plastic the superior food preservation properties of glass," said Jaime Grunlan, Ph.D. from the university. "It will give consumers tastier, longer lasting foods and help boost the food packaging industry."
The packaging coating they've developed combines montmorillonite clay particles - a soil ingredient used to make bricks - with a variety of polymers. Viewed under the microscope, it looks like bricks and mortar, leading the scientists to use the term ‘nano bricks' to describe it.
The researchers say the film - which is invisible to the naked eye, being thousands of times thinner than a human hair - is not only more cheaper than existing packaging coatings but is also more effective. Grunlan said that by adding the ‘nano bricks' film to packaging researchers found they were able to block oxygen more effectively than silicon oxide coatings used in packaging now.
‘Nano Bricks' Packaging
Grunlan said the use of metallized plastics - or plastics with a thin covering of metal or foil - to preserve foods allows oxygen to enter the food packaging, which increases the rate at which the contents inside spoil.
Grunlan said research found that the ‘nano bricks' packaging coating was 100 times less permeable than normal packaging. Using the film on plastic bottles helps slow the loss of carbon dioxide, Grunlan said, helping sodas and other fizzy drinks stay bubbly for longer.
Grunlan said potential development areas for the ‘nano bricks' packaging could be to extend the shelf life of portable foods for the armed forces. He also said he hopes to develop it to block sunlight and claimed that it could also be used in electronics, sporting goods and even tires.