Monday 23 November 2009

Revolutionary research earns university top food and drink industry award

Dr Fengge Gao receives award
L-R Peter Maycock, Dr Fengge Gao and David Cheeseman

This product has the potential to revolutionise the packaging industry and represents a big shift in thinking.
Judges of the iNet Innovation Awards

A project with the potential to revolutionise the food and drink packaging industry has earned Nottingham Trent University's School of Science and Technology the title of Food and Drink iNet Innovation Champion 2009. The development of an innovative packaging material to eliminate leaching from bottled beverages as well as the contamination of food products, was also recognised as the winner of the CenFRA Award for 'Most Innovative Research Project'.

Using their expertise in nanotechnology, scientists at Nottingham Trent University have been able to adapt existing manufacturing techniques to overcome problems faced by the packaging industry. The leaching, or escaping, of gases from within bottled beverages is one such problem and has been solved by using nanofillers to enhance plastic packaging materials - by no more than just a few nanometers (one millionth of a millimetre). Using this nanoscopic technique doesn't affect the appearance of the plastic packaging and eliminates the need to use heavier materials such as glass. This has the potential to save huge amounts of energy required for the processing and transporting of bottled beverages.

The research has also led to the development of materials with antimicrobial properties - which kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms - that can be used in direct contact with food. Existing methods used to combat microbial contamination of food products currently aren't suitable for plastic packaging. The scientists have overcome this problem by developing a special 'antimicrobial nanocomposite' that can be used within these materials. The improved properties of this packaging is also expected to extend the shelf-life of food.

Dr Fennge Gao from Nottingham Trent University's School of Science and Technology said: "I'm absolutely thrilled that we've received this award. We were happy to use our considerable expertise in this area to provide a pragmatic solution to very real and everyday problems for the food and drink industry. To have our efforts recognised with this award is a real honour for Nottingham Trent University."

Judges of the iNet Innovation Awards said: "This product has the potential to revolutionise the packaging industry and represents a big shift in thinking."

Nottingham Trent University's School of Science and Technology received The Food and Drink Forum Innovation Champion 2009 accolade at an award ceremony attended by around 150 representatives from across the East Midlands food and drink sector.

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The Food and Drink iNet
The organiser of the Innovation Awards, the Food and Drink iNet, is aiming to foster innovation in the region’s food and drink sector by encouraging businesses to turn new ideas into new business through the development of new technologies and products. It’s also hoping to stimulate new processes, services and ways of working in the industry to help boost the sector.

Funded by East Midlands Development Agency (emda), the Food and Drink iNet is managed by a consortium, led by the Food & Drink Forum and including Food Processing Faraday, Nottingham Trent University, the University of Lincoln, and the University of Nottingham.