Scientists from RMIT University in Australia have developed an antibacterial texture that can be used on food packaging to help improve shelf life and reduce waste.
Over a decade ago, the team at RMIT University discovered the antibacterial properties of insect wings, and have since been working on developing a nanopattern with the same properties. Now, their vision of using it as a material has come to life.
How Does It Work?
The wings of dragonflies and cicadas are covered in very small nanopillars, which if you study them through a powerful microscope, will look like a bed of nails or blunted spikes. However, these little nanoparticles are rather useful. When bacteria lands on the wind, the nanopillars kill the bacteria by pulling the bacteria cells apart, rupturing their membrane in the process.
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To create their own version, the scientists developed their own nanopatterns based on the insects' nanopillars. Using an on-site facility, they tested several different patterns to find which one best replicated the insects wings, as well as which one was easiest to produce and scale up.
After deciding which nanopattern was the most efficient, they sent their findings to a corresponding team based in Japan, who then found a way to integrate those patterns onto plastic polymer.
“This is a big step towards a natural, non-chemical, antibacterial packaging solution for the food and manufacturing industry.” said Professor Elena Ivanova from the University.
While being able to transfer the nanoparticles onto rigid plastic, the team are still experimenting to find ways in which they can transfer them onto more flexible plastic, for example plastic that is used for packaging. Even when transferred to plastic, the nanoparticles don’t lose their effectiveness.
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The antibacterial properties that the nanoparticles hold will help to improve the lifespan of food products and reduce the amount of shipments that are rejected due to the presence of bacterial growth.