Improving the Barrier Properties of Paper to Moisture, Air, and Grease with Nanocellulose-Based Coating Suspensions
Food packaging manufacturers often resort to lamination, typically with materials which are neither non-biodegradable nor biobased polymers, to confer barrier properties to paper and cardboard. The present work considers a greener solution: enhancing paper&rsquo;s resistance to moisture, grease, and air by aqueous coating suspensions. For hydrophobization, a combined approach between nanocellulose and common esterifying agents was considered, but the water vapor transmission rate (WVTR) remained excessively high for the goal of wrapping moisture-sensitive products (&gt;600 g m&minus;2 d&minus;1). Nonetheless, oil-repellant surfaces were effectively obtained with nanocellulose, illite, sodium alginate, and/or poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA), reaching Kit ratings up to 11. Regarding air resistance, mineral-rich coatings attained values above 1000 Gurley s. In light of these results, nanocellulose, minerals, PVA, pullulan, alginate, and a non-ionic surfactant were combined for multi-purpose coating formulations. It is hypothesized that these materials decrease porosity while complementing each other&rsquo;s flaws, e.g., PVA succeeds at decreasing porosity but has low dimensional stability. As an example, a suspension mostly constituted by nanocellulose, sizing agents, minerals and PVA yielded a WVTR of roughly 100 g m&minus;2 d&minus;1, a Kit rating of 12, and an air resistance above 300 s/100 mL. This indicates that multi-purpose coatings can be satisfactorily incorporated into paper structures for food packaging applications, although not as the food contact layer.