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With the aim of producing environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic food packaging and packaging, a Rutgers scientist has developed a biodegradable plant-based coating that can be sprayed on food, protecting it from pathogenic and destructive microorganisms and transport damage.

Scalable processes can reduce the harmful environmental impact of plastic food packaging and protect human health.

“We knew we needed to remove oil-based food packaging and replace it with something more sustainable, biodegradable and toxic,” said Philip Demokritou, director of the Center for Nanoscience and Advanced Materials Research, and Henry Rutgers. Rutgers Chair in Nanoscience and Environmental Bioengineering at the Institute of Public Health and the Institute of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. “And at the same time, we asked ourselves, ‘Could we design food containers to expire with functionality and reduce food waste while improving food safety?’ ”

Demokritou added: “And what we’ve come up with is scalable technology, which allows us to make smart fibers that can collect biopolymers that can be derived directly from food waste as part of the circular economy. “.

The research was conducted in collaboration with Harvard University scientists and was funded by the Harvard-Nanyang Technological University / Singapore Sustainable Nanotechnology Initiative.

An article in the journal Nature Food describes a new type of packaging technology using polysaccharide / biopolymer-based fibers. Like nets thrown by Spider-Man Marvel comic book characters, the threaded material can be spun from a hair dryer-like heater and “shredded” onto foods of different shapes and sizes, such as avocado or sirloin. Steak. As a result, the food-containing material is strong enough to protect against bruising and contains anti-microorganism agents to fight spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms such as E. coli and listeria.

The research paper includes a description of the so-called rotary jet technology, the process by which the biopolymer is produced, and quantitative assessments showing that the coating has increased the shelf life of avocados by 50 percent. According to the study, the coating is washed with water and degraded in the soil within three days.

The new vessel aims to address a serious environmental problem: the proliferation of petroleum-based plastic products in the waste stream. Efforts to reduce the use of plastics, such as legislation in states like New Jersey, could help eliminate the distribution of plastic bags in grocery stores, Demokritour said. But he wanted to do more.

“I’m not against plastics,” Demokritou said. “I’m against the oil-based plastics that we keep throwing away, because only a small part can be recycled. In the last 50-60 years, during the plastics period, we’ve put 6 billion metric tons of plastic into our environment. these small parts are entering the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe. “

Evidence from Demokritou’s research team and others indicates the growing health implications.

The paper describes how the new fibers that encapsulate food bind to natural antimicrobial ingredients: thyme oil, citric acid, and nisin. Researchers in the Demokritou research team can program such intelligent materials to act as sensors, activating and destroying bacterial strains to ensure that food will arrive unpolluted. This will address growing concerns about foodborne illness and reduce the incidence of food spoilage, Democritour said.

Harvard University scientists include Kevin Kit Parker, Huibin Chang, Luke Macqueen, Michael Peters and John Zimmerman of the Disease Biophysics Group, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; and Jie Xu, Zeynep Aytac, and Tao Xu of the Center for Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology, Harvard T. H. Chan Department of Environmental Health at the School of Public Health.

Materials provided by Rutgers University. Original written by Kitta MacPherson. Note: Content can be edited by style and length.

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