New High-Barrier Polymer Nanocomposite Food Packaging Enables 5-Year Shelf-Life

Period of Performance: 01/01/2002 - 12/31/2002

$594K

Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Triton Systems, Inc.
200 Turnpike Road Array
Chelmsford, MA 01824
Principal Investigator
Firm POC

Abstract

On future extended-flight, exploration-class missions to the Moon or to Mars, astronaut crews will need a minimum 3-year food supply. Triton addresses this challenge by developing new polymer nanocomposite-based materials solutions for food packaging. Nanocomposite materials, based in high-barrier resins, such as PET, EVOH, and polyethylene, can outperform unfilled materials in ways crucial to the needs of NASA and the extended-flight missions. Triton Nanocomposites increase the barrier capabilities of such materials by over 2-3 times. Nanocomposites remain lightweight, flexible, moldable and fully recyclable. With such dramatic increases in barrier properties, nanocomposites can allow the necessary weight and volume of food packaging to be reduced by at least half with decreased packaging wall-thickness. These unique advantages result from the nano-dispersion of very high aspect ratio (>100:1), organically-modified layered alumino-silicates (ORMLASTM). The successful nanocomposite contains well-dispersed and highly orientated nano-platelets, which form an inorganic barrier to diffusing species. This remarkable nano-structure also increases strength and tensile modulus without loss of flexibility and the low-loading levels (2-8%) do not result in any weight-increase or loss of processibility. Reduced resistance to heat and moisture makes these materials fully retortable as well as microwaveable and compatible for use with convection ovens, or hot-water-injection.