Renewable packaging

Researchers at Swedish firm Xylophane have developed a renewable packaging material that can extend the shelf-life of food products.

Researchers at Swedish firm Xylophane have developed a renewable packaging material that they claim can extend the shelf-life of food products.

A pilot factory, expected to be operating by early October 2009, will enable the material to be manufactured and assessed by the company’s potential customers, as well as allow Xylophane to optimise the manufacturing process for full-scale production.

The Xylophane material consists of the natural carbohydrate xylan and additives that are approved for food contact. Xylan is one of the most abundant carbohydrates in nature, but despite this, it is not used in industrial applications.

Xylan can be isolated from by-products from agriculture, such as hulls and husks from cereals.

It is an efficient barrier against oxygen, grease and aroma, and can therefore prolong the shelf-life of sensitive food stuffs or be a sustainable alternative to the barrier materials on the market today.

Since the raw material is water-soluble, the product can be coated onto paper, board or plastics without using other solvents. Tests at the company have shown that the material can also be used in contact with greasy and dry foodstuffs.

The process used to apply a layer of Xylophane in a multi-layer package is dispersion coating. Xylophane in powder form is dissolved in water and coated onto the substrate using roll, rod or blade. The coating is dried with warm air or infrared. Xylophane can be combined with other packaging materials such as paper, paperboard or plastics.

Xylophane’s material has elicited great interest within the packaging industry, as well as from food and chemical producers.

The need for cost-efficient barrier material and production techniques has increased in recent years within the packaging industry, due to factors such as the rising price of raw materials currently used, such as oil and aluminium.

In 2008, Xylophane was named one of Sweden’s 33 hottest technology companies by newspapers ’Ny Teknik’ (New Technology) and ’Affärsvärlden’ (Business World).