Aiming to supply environmentally pleasant alternate options to plastic meals wrap and containers, a Rutgers scientist has developed a biodegradable, plant-based coating that may be sprayed on meals, guarding towards pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms and transportation injury.
The scalable course of may doubtlessly scale back the opposed environmental impression of plastic meals packaging in addition to defend human well being.
“We knew we would have liked to eliminate the petroleum-based meals packaging that’s on the market and change it with one thing extra sustainable, biodegradable and unhazardous,” stated Philip Demokritou, director of the Nanoscience and Superior Supplies Analysis Middle, and the Henry Rutgers Chair in Nanoscience and Environmental Bioengineering on the Rutgers College of Public Well being and Environmental and Occupational Well being Sciences Institute. “And we requested ourselves on the identical time, ‘Can we design meals packaging with a performance to increase shelf life and scale back meals waste whereas enhancing meals security?”’
Demokritou added, “And what we now have provide you with is a scalable expertise, which allows us to show biopolymers, which might be derived as a part of a round economic system from meals waste, into sensible fibers that may wrap meals immediately. That is a part of new technology, ‘sensible’ and ‘inexperienced’ meals packaging.”
The analysis was carried out in live performance with scientists at Harvard College and funded by the Harvard-Nanyang Technological College/Singapore Sustainable Nanotechnology Initiative.
Their article, printed within the science journal Nature Meals, describes the brand new sort of packaging expertise utilizing the polysaccharide/biopolymer-based fibers. Just like the webs solid by the Marvel comedian e-book character Spider-Man, the stringy materials might be spun from a heating system that resembles a hair dryer and “shrink-wrapped” over meals of assorted styles and sizes, comparable to an avocado or a sirloin steak. The ensuing materials that encases meals merchandise is sturdy sufficient to guard bruising and comprises antimicrobial brokers to struggle spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms comparable to E. coli and listeria.
The analysis paper features a description of the expertise known as centered rotary jet spinning, a course of by which the biopolymer is produced, and quantitative assessments displaying the coating prolonged the shelf lifetime of avocados by 50 p.c. The coating might be rinsed off with water and degrades in soil inside three days, in keeping with the research.
The brand new packaging is focused at addressing a critical environmental situation: the proliferation of petroleum-based plastic merchandise within the waste stream. Efforts to curb using plastic, comparable to laws in states like New Jersey to remove plastic purchasing bag distribution at grocery shops, may help, Demokritou stated. However he needed to do extra.
“I am not towards plastics,” Demokritou stated. “I am towards petroleum-based plastics that we maintain throwing on the market as a result of solely a tiny portion of them might be recycled. Over the previous 50 to 60 years, in the course of the Age of Plastic, we have positioned 6 billion metric tons of plastic waste into the environment. They’re on the market degrading slowly. And these tiny fragments are making it into the water we drink, the meals we eat and the air we breathe.”
Rising proof from Demokritou’s analysis group and others level to potential well being implications.
The paper describes how the brand new fibers encapsulating the meals are laced with naturally occurring antimicrobial substances — thyme oil, citric acid and nisin. Researchers within the Demokritou analysis group can program such sensible supplies to behave as sensors, activating and destroying bacterial strains to make sure meals will arrive untainted. It will tackle rising concern over food-borne sicknesses in addition to decrease the incidence of meals spoilage, Demokritou stated.
Scientists at Harvard College who carried out the analysis embrace Kevin Package Parker, Huibin Chang, Luke Macqueen, Michael Peters and John Zimmerman of the Illness Biophysics Group, John A. Paulson College of Engineering and Utilized Sciences; and Jie Xu, Zeynep Aytac and Tao Xu of the Middle for Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology, Division of Environmental Well being, Harvard TH Chan College of Public Well being.
Supplies offered by Rutgers College. Initially written by Kitta MacPherson. Notice: Content material could also be edited for type and size.