Xylan Hemicellulose: A Renewable Material with Potential Properties for Food Packaging Applications
Xylan hemicelluloses are considered the second most abundant class of polysaccharides after cellulose which has good natural barrier properties necessary for foods packaging papers and films. Xylan exists today as a natural polymer, but its utilisation in packaging applications is limited and not sufficiently analysed. In this study, the performances of hardwood xylan hemicellulose in forming uniform films and as biopolymer for paper coatings were analysed. The xylan-coated paper and film samples were tested regarding their water, air, and water vapour permeability, water solubility, mechanical strength, and antimicrobial activity against pathogenic bacteria. Structural analyses of xylan hemicelluloses emphasised a high number of hydroxyl groups with high water affinity. This affects the functional properties of xylan-coated papers but can facilitate the chemical modification of xylan in order to improve their hydrophobic properties and extend their areas of application. The obtained results unveil a promising starting point for using this material in food packaging applications as a competitive and sustainable alternative to petroleum-based polymers.