SINGAPORE – A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) has developed a new active packaging film aimed at extending food product shelf life while lowering costs by 20%.
The new plastic packaging film incorporates nanotechnology based on non-toxic ferric compounds, and features a unique dual purpose high-barrier plate silicate sheet which effectively blocks moisture and oxygen from entering the package while at the same time absorbing oxygen to create an anaerobic environment that enables perishables to last longer than they would in regular plastic packaging.
The new packaging material for food packaging aims to replace metallised packaging films commonly used for potato chip bags and chocolate wrappers. The new material can be customised for different foods and products, and can be coupled with other IMRE innovations to produce ‘smart’ packaging. For example, IMRE has developed a sensor strip that detects minute chemical concentrations associated with the freshness of meat, fish or poultry to give a more accurate indication of food spoilage and expiration.
Dr Li Xu, the principal scientist leading the R&D, said, “We want to develop a protective plastic that is as effective as metallised plastic films that are currently in the market, but with 20% cost savings.”
Prof Andy Hor, Executive Director of IMRE, added, “Improvements to mundane materials like the plastic wrapping in your local supermarket are often taken for granted but technology proves that such innovations could significantly change the world we live in.
“Our new material will reduce food wastage considerably, and allow consumers to more accurately identify when food actually spoils.”
According to the US’s Natural Resources Defense Council, it is estimated that arbitrary expiry dates and ‘food freshness’ labels may have also been responsible for premature food disposal by more than 90% of Americans.
IMRE recently signed an agreement with five Japanese and Singaporean companies to test the new packaging material, as well as look into ways to adapt the technology to applications in other areas such as electronics and medical packaging.
The companies involved in the agreement – Japan’s Mitsui Chemicals Asia Pacific Ltd, Toyo Ink SC Holdings Co Ltd, and Dai Nippon Printing Co Ltd, as well as Singapore’s Piaget Chemicals & Manufacturing Pte Ltd and Dou Yee Enterprises (S) Pte Ltd – are part of the IMRE-led Industrial Coatings and Packaging (ICAP) consortium which is a platform that helps companies reduce R&D risks and investments in new coating and packaging technologies by pooling R&D resources in pre-competitive projects.