Nottingham Trent University
Scientists at Nottingham Trent Universityís School of Science and Technology (NTU) teamed up with colleagues at NTUís School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences and the Holbeach Campus of The University of Lincoln to develop novel antimicrobial nanotechnology for the food and drink sector. Firstly it was used in packaging and later developed further to create a permanent spray-on coating technology to kill or reduce the growth of bacteria, germs and other bugs.
Not only does the coating have antimicrobial behaviour, the material will also make surfaces water repellent - a property known as superhydrophobicity - which will make them much easier to clean, and could also make food processing more energy efficient by reducing friction.
Millions of tonnes of wasted food is thrown away every year, which costs the industry billions of pounds and has environmental and ethical implications. Innovative packaging that conforms to strict health and hygiene regulations and extends shelf life of products is one answer to the problem.
In addition, the UK Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and food and drink research group CCFRA called for research to develop better hygiene technology for detachment of micro-organisms on the surface of food processing facilities and preventing attachment of food on the surface of the equipment.
Food and Drink iNet support
The Food and Drink iNet responded to these challenges by supporting two research projects between NTU and The University of Lincoln.
During phase 1, the iNet provided £63,000 from the Higher Education Collaboration Fund to research the possibility of transferring nanotechnology previously developed for other industries by NTU to packaging in the food and drink sector. This work was conducted in collaboration with NTUís School of Science and Technology and the University of Lincolnís Holbeach Campus.
This was successful Ė overcoming any potential leaching problems Ė and the team took the technology one step further by adding antimicrobial properties which kill or lessen micro-organisms.
During phase 2 of The Food and Drink iNet, a research collaboration was funded between NTUís School of Science and Technology and the University of Lincolnís Holbeach Campus to widen the scope of the earlier research and develop a permanent spray-on coating technology for kitchen surfaces and food preparation areas that will kill or reduce the growth of bacteria, germs and other bugs. The iNet provided almost £50,000 towards the £66,000 cost of the project.
The team developed an exciting world-beating new packaging that kills bugs, extends shelf-life and reduces food and drink waste which won its leader Dr Fengge Gao the title Innovation Champion 2009 in the Food and Drink iNet Innovation Awards. This led to valuable publicity that caught the eye of some of the largest food and drink conglomerates in the world. The team has proved the concept that the technology could be used for antimicrobial spray-on coating for surfaces, and is working to get it to the stage for industrial application.
Dr Gao, Reader in Nanotechnology at Nottingham Trent University (pictured), said:
ďThe Food and Drink iNet has supported a research collaboration between universities which has an impact not just for food and drink sector around the world, but on the increasingly important issue of reducing food waste. A relatively small amount of funding has created something that's truly great in a short space of time. The success of the development of the easy spray nano coating technology, which is the focus of our latest research project, could lead to immediate commercial application."