Researchers investigate future uses for nanotech polymers

Related tags Nanotechnology

A Spain-based research institution is directing a working subgroup
to develop new thermoplastic polymers, which could eventually
benefit the food industry, writes Anthony Fletcher.

The Cidetec Technological Centre​ is developing the technology through its participation in the European NAPA (Emerging Nanopatterning Methods) project. The main objective of this is to provide low-cost processes and tools that meet the needs of nanoprinting processes and required for the development of devices to be employed in various applications such as nanobiotechnology.

Nanotechnology is attractive to global food production and packaging because it promises the possibility of new answers to key challenges. The industry is under a great deal, with transport and raw material costs at a record high.

In addition, the threat of bioterrorism has made food safety along the supply chain a government as well as an industry priority, and new forms of packaging are continually being investigated.

For example, nanoscale monitors could be linked to recording and tracking devices to monitor temperature changes, while other devices could be used to detect for pesticides and genetically modified crops (GMOs) within foodstuffs. Alternatively, The Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research at the Norwegian Institute of Technology (SINTEF) is using nanotechnology to create small particles in the film and improve the transportation of some gases through the plastic film to pump out dirty air such as carbon dioxide.

It is hoped that the concept could be used to block out harmful gases that shorten the shelf life of food.

Ciditec is leading one of NAPA project's main working groups, the main function of which is the development of new thermoplastic polymers. To this end, by means of living radical polymerisation (LRP), a number of low polydispersion polymethacrylates and copolymers and other polymeric materials designed for this application have been randomly synthesised.

The NAPA consortium has brought together almost all the research groups in Europe working in the emerging field of nanopatterning. The project, co-ordinated by VTT (the Technical Research Centre of Finland), is made up of 35 associated members belonging to small- and medium-sized businesses, various European research universities and laboratories such as CEA from France, IBM from, Micro Resist Technology GmbH from Germany, etc.

Together these have drawn together a wide range of know-how about nanomanufacturing and developed a highly important research effort involving some 3,500 scientists.

Another interesting part of this project is its educational aspect, with positive socioeconomic benefits, forecasting an increase in employment at a European level. The consortium is organising training courses and seminars for new scientists, with the aim of boosting academic and practical training in areas related to research into nanotechnologies.

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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