Packaging where nothing sticks....

We all know the problem with ketchup or mayonnaise: no matter how we shake or tap the bottle, up to 20% is left in the packaging when it is dumped in the trash can. This is not only annoying but poses difficulties when recycling: the leftovers have to be removed from the packaging, which is expensive, time-consuming, and uses a great deal of water. If the products in question are pharmaceuticals, chemicals or pesticides, the rinsed-out leftovers also have to be disposed of in a suitable manner.

A joint project by the Fraunhofer Institutes for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Freising and for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart, together with Munich University of Technology and various industrial partners has developed a thin film, no more than 20 nanometres thick, to be applied to the inside surface of the packaging.

‘We make the coatings from a plasma of the type already familiar from neon lamps,’ explains IGB scientist Dr Michaela Müller. ‘We place the plastics into a vacuum then introduce gases into the vacuum chamber and ignite them by applying a voltage. We can deposit different coatings with defined properties on the surface of the packaging, depending on the proportions of electrons, ions, neutrons and photons in this luminous gas mixture.’ The first samples of this new packaging already exist and were presented to the public for the first time last autumn.

The research scientists hope that in two to three years they could be in full production.

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First published in May 2008

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