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Design and Preparation of a Biobased Colorimetric pH Indicator from Cellulose and Pigments of Bacterial Origin, for Potential Application as Smart Food Packaging

Nowadays, worldwide challenges such as global warming, pollution, unsustainable consumption patterns, and scarcity of natural resources are key drivers toward future-oriented bioeconomy strategies, which rely on renewable biobased resources, such as bacterial pigments and bacterial cellulose (BC), for materials production. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to functionalize bacterial cellulose with violacein, flexirubin-type pigment, and prodigiosin and test their suitability as pH indicators, due to the pigments’ sensitivity to pH alterations. The screening of the most suitable conditions to obtain the BC-pigment indicators was achieved using a full factorial design, for a more sustainable functionalization process. Then, the pH response of functionalized BC to buffer solutions was assessed, with color changes at acidic pH (BC-violacein indicator) and at alkaline pH (BC-violacein, BC-prodigiosin, and BC-flexirubin-type pigment indicators). Moreover, the indicators also revealed sensitivity to acid and base vapors. Furthermore, leaching evaluation of the produced indicators showed higher suitability for aqueous foods. Additionally, color stability of the functionalized BC indicators was carried out, after light exposure and storage at 4 °C, to evaluate the indicators’ capacity to maintain color/sensitivity. Thus, BC membranes functionalized with bacterial pigments have the potential to be further developed and used as pH indicators.

Publication date: 15/09/2022

Author: Lúcia F. A. Amorim

Reference: doi: 10.3390/polym14183869

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.