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Functional Nanocellulose, Alginate and Chitosan Nanocomposites Designed as Active Film Packaging Materials

 The aim of the study was to characterize and compare films made of cellulose nanocrystals (CNC), nano-fibrils (CNF), and bacterial nanocellulose (BNC) in combination with chitosan and alginate in terms of applicability for potential food packaging applications. In total, 25 different formulations were made and evaluated, and seven biopolymer films with the best mechanical performance (tensile strength, strain)—alginate, alginate with 5% CNC, chitosan, chitosan with 3% CNC, BNC with and without glycerol, and CNF with glycerol—were selected and investigated regarding morphology (SEM), density, contact angle, surface energy, water absorption, and oxygen and water barrier properties. Studies revealed that polysaccharide-based films with added CNC are the most suitable for packaging purposes, and better dispersing of nanocellulose in chitosan than in alginate was observed. Results showed an increase in hydrophobicity (increase of contact angle and reduced moisture absorption) of chitosan and alginate films with the addition of CNC, and chitosan with 3% CNC had the highest contact angle, 108 ± 2, and 15% lower moisture absorption compared to pure chitosan. Overall, the ability of nanocellulose additives to preserve the structure and function of chitosan and alginate materials in a humid environment was convincingly demonstrated. Barrier properties were improved by combining the biopolymers, and water vapor transmission rate (WVTR) was reduced by 15–45% and oxygen permeability (OTR) up to 45% by adding nanocellulose compared to single biopolymer formulations. It was concluded that with a good oxygen barrier, a water barrier that is comparable to PLA, and good mechanical properties, biopolymer films would be a good alternative to conventional plastic packaging used for ready-to-eat foods with short storage time. 

Publication date: 30/07/2021

Author: Gregor Lavri?

Reference: doi: 10.3390/polym13152523

MDPI (polymers)


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.