Researchers to develop smart packaging that can power itself

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Gregory Batt, director of Clemson Package Testing Laboratory. Photo: Clemson University Public Service and Agriculture.
Gregory Batt, director of Clemson Package Testing Laboratory. Photo: Clemson University Public Service and Agriculture.
Two researchers from Clemson Transport Package Testing Laboratory have received a $500k grant from the US National Science Foundation to study triboelectric generators in smart packaging.

As part of the project, Gregory Batt and James Gibert, will use the technology to power sensors and monitor products in transit.

Batt & Gilbert
Batt & Gibert
Packaging is transforming

Batt is assistant professor, food, nutrition and packaging sciences department and director, Clemson Transport Package Testing Laboratory, part of Clemson University, South Carolina, US, and Gibert, a Clemson alumnus, is assistant professor, School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University, Indiana, US.

The packaging industry is transforming​,” said Batt.

The demand for and application of smart packaging devices used during the transport and storage of products continues to increase. Most of these devices require power.

“Development of an energy harvesting device that can harvest power from forces naturally occurring in the distribution environment, while possibly mitigating those forces experienced by the product, just makes sense.”

The way the smart device would work is creating smart packaging that converts the bumps and friction packages encounter during distribution into energy that can power sensors to monitor the products in transit.

The triboelectric energy harvester consists of two corrugated boards, one with a metalized film and the other with a Teflon polymer film. When in contact with each other, the boards generate a voltage difference that can be harvested.

‘Smart’ or ‘intelligent’ packaging includeS printed electronics, smart labels, time-temperature indicators and Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags.

Vibration response

We will build on our previous work with modeling the vibration response of complex foam materials so we can determine how to create a means to reduce the vibration transmitted to products while still generating adequate power​,” added Batt.

Triboelectric devices have received little study in published research, making for an ideal opportunity for impactful work​.”

Triboelectric energy harvesters convert mechanical energy to electrical energy, which is collected and used to charge rechargeable energy cells to power small electronic devices.

Gibert said the study has far-reaching implications in powering devices in the hyper-connected world known as the ‘internet of things,’ where devices communicate with each other autonomously.

The study also focuses on creating economical packaging designs that can protect instruments from potential hazards.

Sensors and devices used in smart packaging need to be self-sustaining as it will be difficult to change the power source during transportation,​” said Gibert.

Triboelectricity offers a way to directly charge or power these devices.​”

Jeffery Rhodehamel, department chair, National Science Foundation, said the grant is one of the largest ever awarded to a packaging science faculty.

This study is indicative of the type of research that is done by the faculty in the Food, Nutrition and Packaging Sciences Department. It is a testament to Dr. Batt’s efforts, the quality of his work and his reputation in the field​,” he said.

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