Virginia Tech researchers to create new slippery packaging solution

6 August 2018 (Last Updated August 6th, 2018 12:12)

Researchers from Virginia Tech University in the US are conducting a study to create a new slippery industrial packaging solution in an effort to reduce food waste.

Virginia Tech researchers to create new slippery packaging solution
New research from Virginia Tech aims to create slippery industrial packaging solution to cut down on food waste. Credit: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Researchers from Virginia Tech University in the US are conducting a study to create a new slippery industrial packaging solution in an effort to reduce food waste.

The study, which received a provisional patent, was fully funded through an industrial collaboration with Bemis North America.

According to the study, researchers will include a method to wick chemically compatible vegetable oils into the surfaces of common extruded plastics, which would release sticky foods from their packaging.

The study states that the method can be applied to inexpensive plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene.

“Previous SLIPS, or slippery liquid-infused porous surfaces, have been made using silicon- or fluorine-based polymers, which are very expensive.”

Virginia Tech study lead author Ranit Mukherjee said: “Previous SLIPS, or slippery liquid-infused porous surfaces, have been made using silicon- or fluorine-based polymers, which are very expensive.

“But we can make our SLIPS out of these hydrocarbon-based polymers, which are widely applicable to everyday packaged products.”

SLIPS are absorbent polymers designed to hold chemically compatible oils within their surfaces through wicking making them slippery. They were first created by Harvard University researchers in 2011.

In addition, the study found that the oil-infused plastic surfaces resist bacterial adhesion and growth.

The method is suitable for industrial food and product packaging, as well as the pharmaceutical industry.

The study co-author Jonathan Boreyko said: “We had two big breakthroughs. Not only are we using these hydrocarbon-based polymers that are cheap and in high demand, but we don’t have to add any surface roughness, either.

“We actually found oils that are naturally compatible with the plastics, so these oils are wicking into the plastic itself, not into a roughness we have to apply.”