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SBIR/STTR

Biodegradable Long Shelf Life Food Packaging Material, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Biodegradable Long Shelf Life Food Packaging Material, Phase I
Long shelf life food packaging is a critical to maintaining the crew's well being in NASA's manned missions to the mars. Not only does the packaging have to offer an effective means to preserve the food's nutrition and flavor over a long period of time, but the packaging material itself should be easily managed/recycled inside a confined environment like a space shuttle. Although metal cans have long been used for long term food storage in daily life, trash management poses a serious problem for NASA. Recently, biodegradable polymers attracted a lot of attention as an environmentally friendly packaging material. However, they are mainly used for short shelf life products because of poor barrier properties. To enhance its barrier protection properties to oxygen and water, in this SBIR project, we propose a new composite material of PLA coated with a thin layer of transparent and pin-hole free amorphous Al2O3. To improve PLA thermal properties and produce retorted polymer structures nanoparticles will be introduced in the polymer matrix. Moreover, to obtain the desired barrier properties for long shelf life food packaging a unique technique will be used to deposit Al2O3 films at substrate temperatures less than 80C. This effort will greatly enhance PLA's barrier properties to provide a unique high barrier packaging material with less mass and, more importantly, totally biodegradable. This technology is easily scalable and a successful commercialization will definitely benefit NASA's manned missions. Moreover, as an environmentally friendly packaging material, the technology has the potential to have a broad impact on society. More »

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