Savings could accrue from electron beam decontamination

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Electron beam Molecule Chemistry

Electron beam emitters are being used by researchers to find ways of replacing thermal and chemical processes for cleaner, more efficient, lower-cost manufacturing and greener packaging.

US based Advanced Electron Beams (AEB) recently announced a collaboration with the University of Reims in France, in which the University will use AEB's electron beam technology for fundamental research on electron beam-induced chemistry and materials transformation.

The University said that it has installed AEB's Application Development Emitter Unit in its new Institute of Molecular Chemistry, where it will study the effects of accelerated electrons on a wide range of chemical compounds with a focus on electron beam-induced polymerization and polymer modification.

According to the scientists involved, this research has a wide range of potential applications, including creating more environmentally friendly and sustainable packaging, improving product safety and helping companies transform today's inefficient and wasteful manufacturing processes.

Lead researcher, Dr Xavier Coqueret, professor in the Institute of Molecular Chemistry at the University of Reims, said that the department is excited about the potential of electron beam (EB) technology to spark innovation, help companies discover new ways to save energy and reduce their reliance on hazardous substances.

Sustainability

Dave Icke, vice president of marketing at AEB, told FoodProductionDaily.com that an increasingly number of beverage and food manufacturers are choosing the technology for surface decontamination of their PET bottle preforms, caps, cans, packaging film, gable tops and packs, and aseptic pouches.

“The EB sterilisation technique provides manufacturers with an extremely sustainable method of decontamination. The technology enables polymer sterilisation to be conducted in milliseconds, at room temperature, thus helping companies reduce energy consumption by up to 60 to 90 per cent.”

Chemical reduction

He said that AEB's emitters use a stream of electrons to initiate chemical reactions or break chemical bonds more efficiently than existing thermal and chemical approaches, and the method decreases chemical and water use.

“Low energy electron beams can sterilize the inside of the bottle prior to filling by applying energy directly to the inside surface of the bottle. This enables bottle fillers to eliminate the use of chemical sterilants and, in turn, eliminate the use of rinse water,” ​said Icke.

According to Icke, electron beam technology enables a rapid, six log reduction of surface microbes.

Polymer enhancement

He said that the technology can also improve the heat and creep resistance, tensile strength, and oxygen or carbon dioxide barrier properties of polymers.

“Electron beam crosslinking and advanced surface modification can enhance the properties of common packaging materials such that product performance can be improved.”

Icke said that, in addition, this sterilization method enables manufacturers to light weight their cap or bottles:

“The technology also allows a reduction in overall resin as the low temperatures employed means heat-withstanding heavy weight bottles are not required.

“If you can reduce material by at least one gram it could result in savings of at least €300,000 a year on a typical 600 per minute PET bottle production line,”​ he claims.

Curing alternative

EB, continued Icke, can be used for curing of inks, coatings, and laminate adhesives for indirect and direct food contact surfaces, and he claims it is an increasingly common alternative to traditional solvent based techniques.

He added that while there are high initial investment costs involved in purchasing the EB equipment, the overall lower operating costs that result means companies will have pay back within two years.

AEB collaborates with manufacturers such as Krones, KHS and GEA, and the company claims that, in the last month, two leading global beverage and aseptic packaging machinery suppliers, due to growing customer demand, have signed on to incorporate its EB emitters into their new equipment ranges.

Related topics Processing & packaging

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