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Electronic sensor system for the characterisation of packaging emissions

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Ensuring food quality

In line with food safety regulations, a prototype system for the evaluation of volatile emissions from packaging materials offers increased time savings for the industries.

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Microorganisms, humidity, pollutants, light and oxygen are some of the several factors that may negatively affect foodstuffs. For this reason suitable packaging materials are employed for protection of foodstuff from environmental impact assuring their long shelf life stability. Yet, sometimes undesirable substances including solvents and off-odour components found in wrapping materials may have undesirable effects on food. Urged by this, the ESCAPE project focused on developing suitable equipment to monitor off-odours and residual solvents during the production of packaging materials at an early stage. More specifically, new instrumentation was developed that integrates specially designed application-driven sensor systems and sampling instruments. The prototype system is capable of measuring the amount of out-gas analytes in order to assess the quality of packaging materials. The novel analytical device is a unique combination of a dedicated sampling system, driving electronics for the sensors and software. It may be utilised for headspace analysis on different materials and in particular on gravure printing samples. It is easy to use and cost-efficient without placing any requirements on special skills. Most importantly, it can be placed at line as an additional screening tool for discovering deviations in the production at an early stage. The device allows classification of volatile emissions from different sources after the calibration phase and provides separate detection of particular solvents including water. Unlike conventionally used quality evaluation methods, such as human sensory panels or analytical investigations (gas chromatography, mass spectrometry), the new analytic approach is less time consuming. Further research or development support is sought with partners, particularly those interested in new applications.

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