Food that stays fresher for longer and varnishes that keep furniture looking new is the goal of new plastic technologies to be developed by a consortium set up by A*STAR’s IMRE and its industry partners. In its first industry-themed project, the new ICAP consortium will develop transparent plastics that better protect foods and medicines from oxidation and keep them fresher for longer by blocking oxygen, moisture and UV rays.
“Plastics make up about 40% of most packaging materials with the market set to grow at a faster rate than any other packaging material used today. However, current plastic packaging has its limitations as it allows diffusion of oxygen, moisture and UV light compared to materials like aluminium or tin. This oxidises and degrades perishables like food and pharmaceuticals”, says Dr Li Xu, the IMRE senior scientist who is leading the first ICAP project. “The ICAP team will be using IMRE’s advanced capabilities to develop new technologies to overcome these limitations. The plastics we develop should also require less energy to produce and allow consumers to see the actual perishable products compared to today’s opaque aluminium-plastic packaging materials. The same technology may also be used to make paints and varnishes that protect surfaces with air-tight coatings and block oxidising UV and near infrared rays”, adds Dr Li. The technology can also be adapted to make transparent surface coatings with improved hardness, UV blocking and oxidation-resistant for use in paints and varnishes.
"Today, consumers want everything cheap and good; this translates to research demands. We need a new generation of food packaging that go beyond their usual functions. For example, packaging that helps food stay fresh and last longer, or with a built-in security feature that deters tampering or even one that lights up when food turns sour!”, says Prof Andy Hor, IMRE’s Executive Director. “The secret may lie in IMRE’s novel layer-by-layer technology of stacking of modified clay sheets. ICAP members will have access to that”, adds Prof Hor.
ICAP was conceived in response to the needs of packaging and coating manufacturers who were seeing an increasing demand for high-performance, customised packaging and coatings for critical components and equipment, consumer care, automotive, aerospace, oil and gas industries. Through such a partnership, new and innovative technologies like IMRE’s packaging and coating can be placed directly into the hands of relevant companies thus shortening the time-to-market of new products. The consortium currently comprises core member companies including Nestle R&D Center (Pte) Ltd, Daibochi Plastic And Packaging Industry Berhad, Texplore Co., Ltd. (subsidiary company of SCG Chemicals Co., Ltd), Nipo International Pte Ltd and Piaget Chemicals & Manufacturing Pte Ltd.“We are very impressed with the tech-level of the research and we are excited about the prospects of the application of this technology. We are confident that this technology can grow our business in modified clay additives and create endless possibilities for new materials”, said Mr Chua Leng Keong, Managing Director of Piaget Chemicals & Manufacturing Pte Ltd.
A*STAR supports Singapore's key economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry. It also supports extramural research in the universities, and with other local and international partners. For more information about A*STAR, please visit www.a-star.edu.sg
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