May 22, 2019
Keeping it fresh: Food packaging technology receives top honor
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A large-scale manufacturing process to improve food packaging and keep groceries fresher longer has received top honors at one of the world’s largest technical conferences for the packaging industry.
The new manufacturing process uses cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) that provide advanced barrier coatings for food packaging. It was developed by a team of Purdue University researchers, led by Jeffrey Youngblood, a professor of materials engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering. Md Nuruddin, a graduate student on the team, received the award for best poster during PaperCon 2019 this month in Indianapolis.
“It is the world’s largest technical conference for the paper and packaging industry,” Nuruddin said. “It was a great opportunity for networking with technical experts from industry and to hear them present their products and challenges.”
According to Credence Research, food packaging is a growing billion-dollar market, and overall predicted growth is expected to reach 6% by 2024. Advanced barrier coatings, which help to protect grocery items such as foods and beverages, are growing by as much as 45% each year.
CNCs are an alternative renewable raw material derived from abundant resources such as wood and plants. They have properties including nontoxicity, biodegradability, high specific strength, high thermal conductivity and optical transparency, all of which make them excellent components for advanced food packaging.
“This discovery has the potential to enable more sustainable high-performance food packaging to keep food fresher longer,” Youngblood said. “Winning an award such as this at Papercon from experts in the packaging field is validation that our approach has merit.”
The Purdue manufacturing technique also is scalable since it is a roll-to-roll manufacturing process using waterborne polymer systems. CNCs are highly crystalline and easily dispersed in water, so manufacturers can control the structure to eliminate free volume and end up with only the properties that are needed for the barrier material.
The Purdue technology also offers food packaging manufacturers excellent optical, thermal and mechanical properties to ensure that food remains as fresh as possible when it is delivered to the grocery store for consumers.
The work aligns with Purdue's Giant Leaps celebration, celebrating the global advancements in sustainability as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. It is one of the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.
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