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Biodegradable nanocomposite food packaging


Packaging materials with satisfying barrier properties for modified atmosphere applications nearly always exist of multilayer systems, with a combination of different polymeric materials. For example polyvinylchloride and oriented polypropylene exhibit a very low permeability for water vapour, whereas polyvinylalcohol is known for its good barrier properties against oxygen. Biodegradable packaging made from starch is normally not suited for packaging because of it's highly hydrophylic nature and it's low mechanical properties. A recently newly developed technology based on polymerclay nanocomposites processing most likely can also upgrade the hydrophylic and mechanical properties of starch based films. These films are intrinsically biodegradable and suitable for food packaging applications. Homogeneously dispersing nanometre size layered silicates, with high length/thickness ratios, in a polymer significantly improves mechanical and more importantly barrier properties of the polymer matrix. Starch is an inexpensive biodegradable raw material that is available in large quantities. Essential for a good quality starch is a material with a high molecular weight amylose and a low amylopectine content. In order to transform starch into a thermoplastic material suitable for food packaging applications it needs to be chemically modified and destructured in a processing step. The general goal of the project is to develop a new biodegradable food packaging material with a low permeability for oxygen, carbondioxide, nitrogen and water vapour, by homogeneously dispersing functionalised layered silicates (clay minerals) in thermoplastic starch via polymer melt processing techniques.

This general goal will be achieved by means of the following specific objectives and tasks:
(1) modification of layered silicates, ie. Clay minerals, with anew class of non-ionic modifying agents in order to compatibilise the clay with thermoplastic starch;
(2) development of a polymer melt process, compatible with current polymer processing techniques, to homogeneously dispers modified clay particles in thermoplastic starch in order to produce starch-clay nanocoposite films;
(3) characteriation of the nanocomposite films with respect to mechanical and barrier properties, thermal stability and biodegradability;
(4) optimisation of the polymer melt processing by adjusting the chemical structure of the starch, the clay modification agents and the clay content;
(5) development of prototype packaging film material for food applications, including a full characterisation of the prototypes;
(6) upscaling of the modification of the clay minerals and the dispersion of the modified clay minerals in thermoplastic starch via polymer melt processing to a 5 kg pilot plant scale.

This proposal brings together four private firms from three European countries and four R&D public institutions from three European countries. All of them have a great deal of experience working on either biodegradable polymers, polymer processing, polymer characterisation, food packaging development and food packaging charcterisation. The composition of the research teams (industrial and laboratory chemists, basic and applied researchers) guarantee a multidisciplinary and realistic approach and the practical application of the results. The most relevant areas within the EU FAIR programme for the project BIONANOPACK are 3.3.6 3.3.4 and 3.3.1


Nederlandse Organisatie voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek

2600 JA Delft

Participants (7)

Biop Biopolymer GmbH
Gostritzer Strasse
01217 Dresden
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche
Via Toiano 6
80072 Arco Felice (Napoli)
INSTM - Consorzio Interuniversitario Nazionale per la Scienza e Tecnologia dei Materiali
Via C. Lombroso
50134 Florence
Interchem-Hellas SA
Syngrou Ave 232
17672 Athens
Laviosa Chimica Mineraria SpA
Via Leonardo Da Vinci
57123 Livorno
National Centre for Scientific Research 'Demokritos'

15310 Aghia Paraskevi Attikis
Ortobell Srl
Via Trieste 8
24060 S. Paolo D'argon