Bright Ideas Award: Intelligent pigments and plastics

  • Mills, Andrew (Principal Investigator)

Project: Research

Project Details


Plastic packaging is a global industry associated with many products, none bigger than food, drink and medical packaging. Most food and drink and a great number of medicines and medical appliances are sealed under a modified atmosphere (MA) - usually inert - in order to preserve the state of the product. Oxygen spoils such products not only by direct oxidation but also by encouraging growth of aerobic spoilage microbes. Other potentially spoilage analytes/operational parameters include: water vapour (e.g. for dry foods and electronic goods), improper refrigeration and exposure to solar UV; all can lead to rapid product deterioration (e.g. in foods, drinks and vaccines). When many foods spoil detectable volatile species are often emitted. There is no 100% quality control for such packaging, nor any current technology that can inexpensively transform current packaging to rendered it self-diagnostic in terms of package integrity and product quality. As a consequence food waste is significant. This project will generate a new era of plastic packaging - smart, diagnostic plastics - which will be wholly of partly (as a patch) incorporated into the package and be readily incorporated into existing plastic packaging manufacture methods. In addition to transforming QA in MA packaging (total of over 50 billion units pa), other obvious products which will arise from this work include: (i) spoilt food indicating cling film, (ii) 'consume within' indicating packaging for refrigerated, OPENED food, (iii) tamper-evidence packaging, (iv) incorrect refrigeration packaging. This novel approach has the potential to transform the packaging industry.
Effective start/end date1/02/101/03/11


  • EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council): £218,917.00


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