Nanocomposites As Food Packaging Materials
A nanocomposite is a polymer film of nanopolymers. Nanocomposites as food packaging materials play a crucial role in food technology and fall under nanobiotechnology. Therefore, bionanotechnology is considered to be the remarkable unification of biotechnology and nanotechnology by virtue of which traditional micro–technology intermingled with molecular biology. Food packaging in today’s world has a crucial function in the modern food industry, especially when consumer and industrial demand is considered in today’s world. Bionanotechnology is the science of the combination of nanotechnology and biology that integrates specialized applications of nanoparticles. Therefore this advanced technology involves material structure characterization by controlling its shape and size on a nanometer scale.
Nanocomposites as food packaging materials
Bionanotechnology in food packaging comprises integrating nanoparticles with biopolymers as delivering safe, superior quality, anti-microbial packaging which is the industrial approach to food packaging. It also acts as a barrier and controls potentially damaging levels of light, water, and oxygen. They are also used as bionanosensors for the detection of many food-borne pathogens or contaminants. Advancements in bionanotechnology ensure public health care with biosynthetic, environment-friendly nanoparticle synthesis.
Bionano-food packaging provides potential benefits to food safety sectors. This could also be useful for checking whether the packaged food is stored under appropriate environmental conditions. The only concern with nanoparticles lies in their risk of consumption. Presumed toxicity, and lack of experimental data from clinical trials in the food packaging sector. It has both it’s good and bad. If things go softly bionanotechnology, it will one day be an inevitable part of public everyday life and will help save many lives.
Merging of biology with nanotechnology
This technology has the potential to remove boundaries between biology, chemistry, and physics to at least some extent. Nanoscience, biotechnology, and other knowledge areas are merged in scientific laboratories worldwide to provide living organisms, materials, or structures with phenomenal features that have never been seen before. Thus it is a platform involving physicochemical changes to generate or produce nano-sized structures.
Packing Methodology Of Nanocomposites In Food Packaging
The main reason for food packaging is mainly to prevent contamination and spoilage of food. Therefore food packaging is the most essential step in terms of food safety. Due to an unfavourable environment, the bioactive component of functional food usually gets inactivated and degraded and consequently, the shelf-life of the product is shortened.
- Making the packaging resistant to mechanical shocks and temperature, moisture resistant – Improved Packaging
- Using nanomaterial with active functions like antioxidative, antimicrobial, and pathogen indicator, Etc. – Active Packaging
- Usage of bionanosensors to detect gaseous contaminants and ensure freshness of the packed food– Smart Packaging
- Making sure that the packaging is biodegradable and eco-friendly – Biobased packaging
Types of Nanocomposites As Food Packaging Materials
Starch is a semi-crystalline storage polysaccharide, produced by many green plants. It consists of repeating units of linear amylose (1,4 – D glucopyranosyl units) and branched amylopectin (alpha-1,4-linked backbone and alpha-1,6-D-glucopyranosyl units linked branches). They have a tendency to tolerate high temperatures that are necessary during transport and storage. Thus starch-based packaging materials have tremendous possibilities to provide proper packaging materials for safe, healthy food products.
Cellulose is the most abundant natural biopolymer in nature, with unbranched linear chains (D-glucose molecules linked by 1,4-D-glucoside bonds). It has received attention for its excellent attractive properties like biodegradability, non-toxicity, stiffness, and best barrier resistivity. But, these cellulose films have poor water vapour barriers because of their immanent hydrophilic nature.
PLA based Nanocomposites
Polylactic acid (PLA) is a polymer, consisting of Lactic acid as the monomer, which has attractive properties such as biocompatibility, biodegradability, and susceptibility with good mechanical and optical properties. Therefore this effect of plasticizers on the oxygen permeability of PLA was balanced by the formation of the kaolinite nanocomposite. Thus PLA is safe for all food packaging applications.
Pectin based Nanocomposites
Pectins are natural biopolymers, consisting of linear regions of 1,4-alpha-D-galacturonosyl esters, linked in places by 1,2-alpha-L-rhamnopyranosyl units. Such polymers are cohesive and transparent. This composite also exhibits good oxygen and carbon dioxide barrier properties but its poor vapor barrier properties, limiting their applications in food packaging.
Applications Of Nanocomposites in Food Packaging
- The main goal of food packaging is to increase the mechanical and physical properties of the packaging like resistance to temperature, gas barrier properties, mechanical strength, flexibility, etc.
- There are a variety of nanoparticle polymers that have been developed which are termed as Nano-composites. These nano-composites commonly contain up to 5 % w/w nanoparticles with clay nanoparticle composites
- These nanomaterials improved the barrier properties of packaging by reducing up to 80-90% permeation of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
- It can also be used for the manufacture of oils, carbonated drinks, films, and bottles of beer.
Future aspects and challenges Of Using Nanocomposites in Food Packaging
Presently there are no special regulations for using nanotechnology in the food industry as such. There is much debate on the future implications of bionanotechnology, especially in the food world. Nanotechnology is already emerging in potentially beneficial medical devices, biomaterials, and energy production.
The main challenges involved in the implications are its instrumental requirements to assess exposure to engineered nanomaterials in the air and water. Tus here also the adverse consequences of nanoparticle contamination need to be kept in mind. Otherwise, the ill effects of nanoparticles on animals, humans, and the environment will be an inevitable issue. The next challenge would be developing reverse systems to evaluate the precise impact of engineered nanomaterials on health and the environment. That would require some special tools as well. It also raises fundamental questions about using such a potentially disruptive technology presently as well as in the future.
Potential Hazards Of Nanocomposites In Food Packaging
- Nanoparticles, due to their microscopic dimensions, have tremendous advantages but that also brings in potential hazards associated with such a particulate matter.
- Just like particulate matter, nanoparticles can harm the respiratory, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal pathways on intake. In the food processing and packaging sector, the primary concern is due to their involuntary consumption into the body.
- Apart from that, the edible can also come along with volatile additives in the packaging that can also find their way to vital organs through the bloodstream.
- The risks associated with bionanotechnology in food packaging are predominantly due to Nanoparticles. Several studies and experiments on mice have shown that nanoparticles cause varied lung pathologies. These disorders include epithelioid granuloma, interstitial inflammation, and necrosis of the lung.
The application of nanotechnology shows great advantages in developing the properties of packaging materials, even in the early stages. This will require continued expenditure to fund the research and development to better understand the advantages and disadvantages of nanotechnology and its use in packaging materials. The use of nanotechnology to implement food packaging can give numerous benefits in the range of advanced technical benefits. Therefore, it is widely expected that nanotechnology-derived food packaging will be available increasingly to consumers worldwide in the future.
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