Scientists have developed a natural antibacterial structure for use on food packaging to maintain shelf life and reduce waste.
- Antibacterial texturing kills bacteria, extending foods shelf life.
- Comes amid huge demand to improve the lifespan of food products, particularly for export.
- Texture can be scaled up for mass production.
A lab-made nanotexture developed by an Australian-Japanese team has killed up to 70% of bacteria and is still effective when it is converted to plastic.
If bacterial growth is detected, more than 30% of human food is recycled, with entire shipments dismissed.
The findings establish the ground for significantly reduction of waste, especially in meat and dairy exports, as well as prolonging the shelf life and improving the quality, safety, and integrity of packaged food on an industrial scale.
Prof. Elena Ivanova of RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, claims that the research team had successfully applied a natural phenomenon to a synthetic material plastic.
Eliminating bacterial contamination is a crucial step in prolonging the shelf life of foods, according to the author.
We knew that the wings of cicadas and dragonflies were highly-efficient bacteria killers and might be a viable option, but still replicating nature is always a challenge.
The same nanotexturing has been fashioned for mimicking insect wings'' bacteria-destroying properties and retains its antibacterial properties when printed on plastic.
This is a huge step towards achieving a natural, non-chemical, antibacterial packaging solution for the food and manufacturing industries.
The KAITEKI Institute is a collaboration between RMIT, Tokyo Metropolitan University, and Mitsubishi Chemicals.
Australia exported $3.1 billion in food and agricultural exports to Japan in 2015, making it the country''s fifth largest exporter.
How it works
A wide range of nanopillars are covered with spikes of similar dimensions to bacteria cells, resulting in dragonfly and cicada wings.
When bacteria settle on a wing, the structure of nanopillars separates the cells, disrupting their membranes and muting them.
Ivanova said it''s like bending a latex glove. As it slowly stretches, the weakest point in the latex will become thinner and tear.
The Ivanovas team developed their nanotexture by replicating insects nanopillars and developing nanopatterns of their own.
Bacteria cells were monitored at RMITs'' world-class Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility in order to better evaluate antibacterial abilities.
The Japan team developed a method to reproduce antibacterial patterns on a plastic polymer.
Ivanovas worked with plastic nanopatterns back in Australia and found the one that best replicated insect wings, although it''s also quite straightforward to fabricate and scale up.
Because of its capability, Ivanova believes that transferring plastic to other materials like silicon and metals is more difficult.
When used in rigid plastic, the nanotexturing created in this study holds its own. She believes that our next challenge is to adapt it for use on smoother plastics.
Ivanova and her colleagues have discovered the bacteria that killed insects a decade ago, and they have worked to create the ideal nanopattern for insects to gain bacteria-killing abilities and use it on a variety of materials.
Bis in the past, it was difficult to find the right technology to reproduce this nanotexturing on a scale suitable for manufacturing.
Despite the fact that technology is in place to expand and enhance antibacterial properties to packaging, among other applications, such as personal protective equipment.
Watch the video below for their new study based on a 2020 study into using insect-inspired nanomaterials to combat superbugs.
The team is keen to work with potential partners in the next phase of research, which includes improving the technology, and deciding which methods to mass manufacture the antibacterial packaging.