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Switchable multifunctional materials for quantitative monitoring temperature, ambient, and liGth exposure

Final Report Summary - STAG (Switchable multifunctional materials for quantitative monitoring Temperature, Ambient, and liGth exposure)

The vision of STAG was to develop inexpensive, easy-to-use active tags to record the thermal exposure of perishable products. This development would be a major technological advance with strong socio-economical implications. The exposure of food, beverage and pharmaceuticals goods to excessive heat is a cause of major concern and costs for the chain production/distribution and its possible impact on citizen's health. There are not yet sustainable devices incorporated into packaging materials (e.g. polymer films, paper, bottles, caps, blisters), which serve the purpose to track the thermal history.

In general terms the methods employed in order to meet science and technology objectives combined those of synthetic organic chemistry, spectroscopy, surface assembly, molecular modelling and simulations, and materials engineering, fabrication and testing.

During the three years of the project STAG designed different materials which are irreversibly sensitive thermal switches; three representative examples are polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), Octacosane (C28) and polyisobuthylene (PIB). They were used to produce TAGs sensitive to thermal exposure in the range from 50 to 70 degrees Celsius, and that contain a high density of information (20 kByte/cm2 in binary code). To cover the lower range of temperatures alkane chains with fewer carbon atoms can be used. An optical reader, which is a digital camera, transfers the data of the TAG to a computer on which a special user-friendly software decodes the information.

The thermal sensitive TAG was successfully demonstrated at the final meeting in presence of the Scientific Officer, Prof. M. Dubinský, and the Project Technical Assistant, Prof. C. A. Charitidis. The TAG was validated by the industrial partner LyonellBasell.

These new materials together with other technology developed could form the basis for a novel class of tags and storage media where digital information at high density can be coupled to sensing functionality to record the history of ambient exposure of products. The socio-economical impact of this class of materials in the long term is enormous, offering completely new capability to packaging, especially for food, beverage, pharmaceutical, and for their use in health, monitoring, safety and security.

The consortium represented a truly multidisciplinary cross-cut through areas that are relevant for nanotechnologies and nanosciences, with a combination of complementary expertises - both academic and industrial - that was necessary to meet the objectives.