A lot of food items come in small plastic packets, making it difficult to squeeze content out. The Food left behind in plastic packaging contributes to the millions of pounds of perfectly edible food that Americans throw out every year.
To deal with this food wastage, a new research has come up with super slippery industrial packaging.
The study has yielded a provisional patent, establishing a method for wicking chemically compatible vegetable oils into the surfaces of common extruded plastics.
Not only will the technique help sticky foods release from their packaging much more easily, but it can also be applied to inexpensive and readily available plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene.
These hydrocarbon-based polymers make up to 55 percent of the total demand for plastics in the world today, meaning potential applications for the research stretch far beyond just ketchup packets. They're also among the easiest plastics to recycle.
"Previous SLIPS, or slippery liquid-infused porous surfaces, have been made using silicon- or fluorine-based polymers, which are very expensive but we can make our SLIPS out of these hydrocarbon-based polymers, which are widely applicable to everyday packaged products," said Ranit Mukherjee, a doctoral student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics within the College of Engineering and the study's lead author.
First created by Harvard University researchers in 2011, SLIPS are porous surfaces or absorbent polymers that can hold a chemically compatible oil within their surfaces via the process of wicking. These surfaces are also self-cleaning, self-healing, and more durable than traditional superhydrophobic surfaces.
In order for SLIPS to hold these oils, the surfaces must have some sort of nano- or micro-roughness, which keeps the oil in place by way of surface tension.
Current silicone- and fluorine-based absorbent polymers SLIPS aren't attractive for industrial applications due to their high cost, while the method of adding roughness to surfaces can likewise be an expensive and complicated process.
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."
While the method has obvious implications for industrial food and product packaging, it could also be used in the pharmaceutical industry. The oil-infused plastic surfaces are naturally anti-fouling, meaning they resist bacterial adhesion and growth.
The full findings are present in the journal- Scientific Reports. (ANI)