Fully biodegradable plastics packaging based on bioORMOCER®
Non-degradable plastic packaging causes pollution onshore and offshore. Packaging based on biodegradable plastics offer a potential solution for addressing global environmental waste problems. However, the properties of the state-of-the art bio-based and biodegradable plastics often do not meet all the necessary specifications (e.g. barrier properties) and are still inferior to those of established non-biodegradable plastic products. Therefore, biopolymers have only had limited use as high-quality packaging materials for food and other sensitive products up until now. A main remaining obstacle is that they do not provide sufficient protection against penetrating oxygen and water vapor and thus cannot guarantee the required shelf life.
Our idea was to improve these properties by a biodegradable barrier coating. We have been developing high-barrier coatings based on a class of materials with glass-like structural units, so called ORMOCER® (inorganic-organic hybrid polymers) for many years. This material class exhibits excellent barrier properties against gases and vapors and thus is used as coatings in food packaging materials. However, the state-of-the-art ORMOCER® is not biodegradable. Therefore, the aim of our work was to modify these coatings to be biodegradable, and at the same time, preserve the barrier and functional properties to provide new potential barrier materials for functional biodegradable packaging.
To realize the new biodegradable coatings, several suitable bio-based / biodegradable compounds have been identified and chemically functionalized. In this way, new bio-precursors were developed that could be used for the synthesis of functional biodegradable coatings. This was achieved by the nano-chemical incorporation and chemical linkage of the chemically modified biopolymers into the ORMOCER®.
The resulting thin coatings are highly transparent and exhibit excellent barrier performance and further functional properties e.g. antimicrobial properties triggered by moisture. The new bioORMOCER® based coating materials represent a new material class. The coatings have good adhesion properties on different polymer film surfaces. Further, they are abrasion resistant and chemically robust. The biodegradability tests have been successfully passed and are further adaptable: the degradation “product” is mostly SiOx – essentially sand.
The upgrading of biodegradable polymer films with our biodegradable coating to meet the packaging specs opens the pathway to fully biodegradable food, cosmetics, or pharmaceutical packaging. BioORMOCER® can play a decisive part in the future design and development of innovative, more environmentally friendly food packaging materials.
Dr. Trapp studies Chemistry at Technical University Berlin, and Newcastle University, UK, until 1996. Since 1996 he held several positions at SGL Carbon, Germany: Head of Fuel Cell Component Department, Head of IP department, Assistant to CTO, New Business Development, Head of Ceramic Fiber Project. He was responsible for up-scaling of several pilot production lines and international business development projects. He obtained various training levels in International Business Development, Intellectual Property, Six Sigma Green Belt. In 2011, Dr. Trapp joined Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC, Würzburg, Germany. Until 2013, he established and managed a new department for battery research (30 employees). He is currently Head of Marketing and Sales at Fraunhofer ISC, in charge of international business development, e.g., of advanced coatings, battery materials, nanoparticles and composites.