NanoPack will explore use of halloysite nanotubes (HNTs) for mass-scale industrial food packaging applications.
HNTs are considered to be one of the most promising natural nanomaterials. Their unique combination of properties include a tubular structure, high aspect ratio, low cost and abundant availability, good biocompatibility and high mechanical strength. Their potential to serve as nanoscale containers for encapuslation of antimicrobial molecules, which has so far only been investigated on the laboratory scale. NanoPack will explore their suitability for mass-scale industrial food packaging applications.
The surfaces of the HNTs will be chemically modified to allow efficient loading and controlled release of natural essential oils.
Essential oils are natural substances derived from plants, that are generally reconised as safe and show antimicrobial activity against a wide range of microorganisms, including bacetria, yeast and moulds. They are commercially available at low cost.
NanoPack will develop large-scale processes and methods for loading HNTs with different essential oils and incorporating the loaded HNTs into polymers for use in food packaging films.
The project will also demonstrate that loading antimicrobial essential oils into HNTs will increase their thermal stability, and allow them to be incorporated into high-commodity polymer packaging films using existing processing techniques.
NanoPack food packaging films will extend the shelf-life of foods by inhibiting microbial growth, thereby improving food safety and reducing food waste.
The resulting food packaging systems will exhibit broad spectrum antimicrobial properties unmet by existing state-of-the-art materials. Unlike common antimicrobial agents that function only in direct contact with packaged food, essential oils are released as vapour from the packaging materials into its headspace, and are capable of sanitizing both the product surface and the headspace.