Researchers Developed New Approach to Slippery Industrial Packaging

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Researchers developed a new approach to slippery industrial packaging, according to a study published on August 3, 2018.

This new approach was developed by experts at Virginia Tech with the aim to cut down on waste. In this study, they used a method by which chemically compatible vegetable oil was wicked onto the surfaces of common extruded plastics. This will help in easy release of sticky foods from the packaging and can be applied to inexpensive and readily available plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene.

Slippery liquid-infused porous surfaces (SLIPS) are porous surfaces or absorbent polymers that are capable of holding a chemically compatible oil within their surfaces via the process of wicking. Apart from being slippery, these surfaces are self-cleaning, self-healing, and more durable than conventional superhydrophobic surfaces. SLIPS that were created earlier were made using silicon- or fluorine-based polymers, which were expensive. However, it can be made using hydrocarbon-based polymers, which are widely applicable to everyday packaged products.

SLIPS can hold these oils if the surfaces have some sort of nano- or micro-roughness, which keeps the oil in place by way of surface tension. Jonathan Boreyko, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics and a study co-author, said, “Not only are we using these hydrocarbon-based polymers that are cheap and in high demand, but we don’t have to add any surface roughness, either. We actually found oils that are naturally compatible with the plastics, so these oils are wicking into the plastic itself, not into a roughness we have to apply.”

Apart from minimizing food waste, researchers cited other benefits of the new method, which includes consumer safety and comfort. This method will find applications in industrial food and product packaging, and pharmaceutical industries.

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