A team of Indiana’s Purdue University, researchers have manufactured an innovative new process that uses cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) to create advanced barrier coatings for food packaging. The technology can be used to create non-toxic and biodegradable packaging solutions. The shelf-life extending process also has the potential for a large-scale rollout but it will require industrial partners to bring the technology to market.
CNCs are an alternative renewable raw material derived from abundant resources such as wood and plants. They have properties including non-toxicity, biodegradability, high specific strength, high thermal conductivity and optical transparency, all of which make them excellent components for advanced food packaging.
“The main issues were in getting sufficient alignment of the cellulose nanocrystals and then actually measuring the extremely low gas permeabilities without interference from other things, like substrates. Once we solved those issues, we realized that the CNC coating is an extremely good barrier layer,” Jeffrey Youngblood, Professor of Materials Engineering at Purdue University and project lead told a reporter from Packaging Insights.
The Purdue manufacturing technique is also 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 the free volume and end up with only the properties that are needed for the barrier material.