Development of multilayered packaging materials with controlled barrier properties

Research area: Nanomaterials
Degree: Honours
Supervisors: Prof Namita Roy Choudhury and Prof Naba Dutta

Summary: The use of plastics in the food packaging industry has received enormous attention because plastics are lightweight, cheap, disposable and have design flexibility (1-3). Their long-term stability and single or multiple use characteristics allow hygienic storage and distribution of food, eliminating the need for cleaning and sterilisation, while reducing costs. However, polymer materials are not inherently impermeable to gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, water vapour and organic materials. Therefore, in order to render them as food packaging materials, they must typically be engineered at a molecular level to inhibit the permeation of these gases, as well as other flavour component, through the walls of the container.

To ensure the barrier characteristics or retention of modified atmosphere during the lifetime of the pack, many different plastic materials are often combined into a structure with several layers, each layer having its own function such as: (a) mechanical strength, (b) water vapour barriers; (c) gas barriers; (d) gas penetrability (e) anti-mist properties (e) sealing properties, etc.

Application of cost effective nanotechnology to improve barrier properties and optimisation of the co-extrusion process technology through fundamental understanding is most desirable approach to develop superior barrier film with optimum quality. The approach is based on the use an unique, self assembling inorganic material in the polymer matrix.

The new nanostructured material when sandwiched between less expensive materials in an envelope will not only control the adhesion and barrier properties but yield increased life packaging material with excellent barrier properties, leading to extended shelf life of different food products. Therefore, the aim of the project is to develop new multilayer barrier materials for high performance barrier films. 

Specific Aims
To determine the most suitable materials compatible with polyethylene (different grades) for preparing a multi-layer packaging film.To impart barrier properties in the packaging material while retaining high film transparency by using inorganic nanoparticle additive to the plastic.To evaluate the barrier, thermal and mechanical performance under different chemical conditions.

References
1. H.C. Silvis, Trends in Polymer Science 5 (1997) 75.
2. J.B. Faisant et al, Polymer, 39 (1998) 533.
3. T Al-Ati, J.H. Hotchkiss, J.Appl.Polym.Sci. 86(2002) 2811.

Areas of study and research

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