Natick investigates high-barrier, non-foil materials for food packaging

Jane Benson
NSRDEC Public Affairs

NATICK, Mass. (July 28, 2015) -- Scientists at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC, are investigating high-barrier, non-foil materials, which have the potential to be lighter in weight, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly than foil-based packaging. 

The non-foil materials - which are based on nanotechnology - could be used for military ration packaging and for food packaging that supports deep space missions for NASA. The Advanced Materials Engineering Team, or AMET, part of NSRDEC's Combat Feeding Directorate, or CFD, is working on the nanocomposite materials, which are an ideal packaging choice for shelf-stable processed foods. 

Nanocomposite films can improve the barrier, mechanical and thermal properties of non-foil food packaging films. 

"The incorporation of nanotechnology into barrier films has proven to be a critical ingredient in our packaging design that will allow us to achieve food protection properties only seen before through the use of foil-based systems," said Dr. Christopher Thellen, a materials engineer in NSRDEC's CFD.

Nanocomposite packaging can be lighter in weight and less expensive than foil pouches and can potentially reduce the amount of solid waste, enhance the quality of the rations and reduce the warfighter's logistical burden.

The technology is based on the incorporation of nano-clay particles into thermoplastic resins. The nanocomposite materials are 1,000 times smaller than conventional composite material fillers. 

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