Innovative core elements

The innovative heart of the project is a systematic analysis of how permselective, cost-effective and environmentally compatible packaging can be developed and tailored to a target product. A numerical model is to be used to calculate the selective permeability for optimized atmosphere storage. This numerical model will be developed and validated during the course of the project on the basis of experimentally determined permselectivity data of different polymers, polymer blends or coating materials. The materials and packaging concepts will be combined in such a way that an optimal oxygen and carbon dioxideatmosphere suitable for storing a specific kind of food can be created and maintained in the packaging. The case examples and experimental data on the permeation of oxygen and carbon dioxide of different (bio)polymer composites, as well as their recyclability, will merge to form a broad knowledge base. All this information, together with the implementation of the model, will be combined to form a decision-making tool that will be available in future to SMEs, allowing them to quickly and efficiently design packaging with an optimum atmosphere.

Explanations of the innovative core elements

The positive effect of permselective packaging on the freshness and shelf life of individual foods such as strawberries, apricots and pears has already been described in the literature. Reference values for the optimum ratio of oxygen and carbon dioxide are available for many foods including most varieties of fruit. What still has to be investigated is how materials and packaging concepts must be combined in order to achieve both overall permselectivity of the package and the proper oxygen and carbon dioxide permeabilities of the individual components so that the shelf life of packed food is effectively prolonged.

The simulation software and database to be developed will make it possible to even plan packaging for products that have not been studied in depth within the scope of the project, since fundamental processes like diffusion, respiration, microbial growth, etc. will already have been imaged and coupled in parameterised form in the model. The required input data include in particular the respiration data of food produce. These are often available in the literature.

Expected Project Results

The main outcome of the project will be a concept for innovative paper- and plastic-based packaging materials which can be used for example as substitutes for perforated packaging films. These materials with tailored permselectivity to oxygen and carbon dioxide will improve the shelf life of fresh, respiring food.
Considerable data collection, material investigations and development work will be undertaken during the project. This will culminate in the programming of a numerical simulation model and the performance of case studies on selected fresh cut foodstuffs. These will lead to results that can be used directly as a basis for future packaging development, mainly by SMEs owing to the fact that they normally have limited research capacities. In particular, the outcome of the project will include:

  • Knowledge of metabolic parameters (oxygen to carbon dioxide) for various types of fresh, convenience and sensitive food produce such as cut fruit or different types of cheese.
  • Models for calculating the required barrier properties to keep the inner atmosphere of food packaging at a constant level.
  • Information about the preparation of ternary polymer blends with a stable morphology by the non-reactive and reactive compatibilisation of the innovative polymer blends. A deep understanding of the impact of blend composition and morphology on the permeability of various ternary blends will be compiled.
  • Knowledge of the influence of modified zeolites and other functional additives on gas barrier properties.
  • Knowledge of formulation and processing of permselective coatings on paper and board.
  • A knowledge base for storing the relevant properties of the newly developed materials.