The EU project will develop nanotechnology based on inorganic-organic hybrid polymers, micro-fibrillated cellulose and nano-capsules to control permeability and ensure food safety.
It will combine this with processing technologies to create safe and extended shelf life and multifunctional biopolymer food packaging.
For food safety, packaging will also contain integrated sensors that provide information about the condition of the food in the meat, fish and dairy sectors.
Barrier properties and sensor functions
The consortium plans to incorporate nanotechnology in biodegradable and recyclable materials to increase the barrier properties of packaging with sensorized functions, which will report the status of the products, their shelf-life and freshness.
Prototypes of multifunctional barrier films for meat packaging, barrier bottles for liquid yoghurt and milk and barrier jars for crab packaging will be created by the end of the project in 2016.
The work will be divided into three principal design and structural levels; component design at nano level, materials integration and design at “compound level” and product design at macro level.
Variety of options
Åge Larsen, project manager and senior researcher at the SINTEF group in Oslo, said they were looking at three different concepts for barrier promoters and three different types of sensors.
“One concept we are looking at is nanofibres from trees such as cellulose and micro-fibrillated cellulose to improve the oxygen barrier properties in real life products,” he told FoodProductionDaily.com.
“Integrating the technologies is a challenge but the aim is to improve existing materials such as PLA and PHA to compete in the market.
“The goal [at the end of the project] is not full scale production but a demonstration concept but the industrial partners are aiming for commercialisation.
“We aim to improve shelf life and ensure the safety of the packaging, we will guarantee health aspects by dealing with migration and studying toxicity. There is substantial work on life cycle analysis and sustainable product design.”
He added that migration and toxicity are being treated by two partners which are taking independent studies on what is produced during the work packages.
Processing tech focus
Its work around processing technologies will look at thermoformed packagings based on 3D formed boards and 3-layer film; blown film for meat packaging; extrusion blow moulded oxygen sensitive bottles for beverages and injection moulded jar for seafood packaging.
In relation to sensors, it avoids the use of external devices (such as Electronic tongue/electronic nose, Time Temperature Indicators and Biosensors devices) which present difficulties to be applied due to their high costs.
This will be overcome with the introduction of techniques to integrate these sensorized materials such as microencapsulation or integration in printing inks suitable for food contact, said ITENE, one of the project partners.
Budget of the project is estimated at €9.9m, of which EU funding makes up €7.2m. The consortium consists of 15 partners from nine countries and is led by the Norwegian research institute SINTEF.