Longer and more accurate shelf-life with A*STAR 'Smart' packaging material technologies

Companies in an A*STAR IMRE-led industry consortium will have access to new active packaging that protects perishables with a layered plastic that is not only extremely effective at keeping out oxygen and moisture, but extends the shelf-life of food by absorbing oxygen that may be present in packaging.

The new age packaging can be coupled with other IMRE technologies like a sensor that can accurately indicate the freshness of packaged meat, fish or poultry.

A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) has signed an agreement with key industry partners to develop and test a new packaging material from IMRE for industry use. The companies that have come onboard are Mitsui Chemicals Asia Pacific, Ltd (Japan), Toyo Ink SC Holdings Co., Ltd (Japan), Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd (Japan), Piaget Chemicals & Manufacturing Pte Ltd (Singapore) and Dou Yee Enterprises (S) Pte Ltd (Singapore). The companies are part of the IMRE-led Industrial Coatings and Packaging (ICAP) consortium[1].

The new packaging is intended for the food packaging market. Metallised plastic packaging material is commonly used for potato chip bags and chocolate wrappers to significantly extend the shelf-life of perishables. The material is part of a speciality films market which is expected to grow to nearly US$30 billion in 2014[2].

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 percent cost savings.”

“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,” said Prof Andy Hor, Executive Director of IMRE. “Our new material will help reduce food wastage considerably, and allow consumers to more accurately identify when food actually spoils.”

The new packaging material can be customised for different foods or products, and can be coupled with other IMRE innovations to produce ‘smart’ packaging. For example, IMRE has developed a sensor strip which detects minute chemical concentrations associated with the freshness of meat, fish or poultry to give a more accurate indication of food spoilage and expiration.

In the US, it is estimated that arbitrary expiry dates and ‘food freshness’ labels may have also been responsible for premature food disposal by more than 90 percent of Americans[3].

The newly developed packing plastic incorporates nanotechnology based on non-toxic ferric compounds. The plastic also has a unique dual purpose high-barrier plate silicate sheet, which effectively blocks moisture and oxygen from seeping into the packaging, and scavenges oxygen to create an anaerobic environment that makes perishables last longer than they would in regular plastic packaging.

The technology, which was launched on 17 November 2014 as part of the second phase of the ICAP consortium, will further explore, develop, advance and test new materials for food packaging. The researchers at IMRE are also working to adapt the packaging material to applications in other areas like electronics and medical packaging.

[1] The Industrial Coating And Packaging (ICAP) Consortium is a platform that helps companies reduce R&D risks and investments in new coating and packaging technologies by synergistically pooling R&D resources in pre-competitive projects. More information is available at: www.imre.a-star.edu.sg/industry.

[2] Source: “Global specialty films market to grow at 6.1% pa till 2014”, http://www.plastemart.com/upload/Literature/Global-specialty-films-marke...

[3]Source: Natural Resources Defense Council Press Release entitled ‘Food Expiration Date Confusion Causing up to 90% of Americans to Waste Food’ based on “The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America” report, Sep 18, 2013, http://www.nrdc.org/media/2013/130918.asp

For further information contact:
Eugene Low
Senior Manager, Corporate Communications
Agency for Science, Technology and Research
Email: [email protected]

Published: 01 Dec 2014

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