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Wonder material could soon be used in food packaging

08 April 2013

Graphene could be soon used in as a barrier material in food packaging, helping to extend shelf life and enhance hygiene.

As part of a £3.5million, five year project, a team from the University of Manchester is exploring the commercial possibilities of ‘wonder material’ graphene, including research into beverage can coating applications.

Graphene is the world’s thinnest, strongest and most conductive material, and has the potential to revolutionise a huge number of diverse applications; from smartphones and ultrafast broadband to drug delivery and computer chips. No molecules can get through a perfect sheet of graphene and when platelets of graphene are built into more complex structures, highly selective membranes can be generated. The aim is, together with industrial partners, to produce working membranes for applications related to sustainability, energy, health, defence and food security.

As part of a project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the researchers believe that within five years they will be well on the way to working with key players in the food industry to enable market use.

Professor Paul Budd, School of Chemistry, University of Manchester, said: “We will also be looking at practical ways of using the ability of graphene to act as a perfect barrier in, for example, food packaging. We will be building graphene into sensors for detecting human diseases and agricultural pests.”

The University of Manchester is building the £61m National Graphene Institute, a research hub where scientists and industry will work side by side on developing the applications of the future. Funded by the EPSRC and the European Regional Development Fund, the building is expected to open in spring 2015.


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