What-enabled packaging? While it may sound complicated to someone who’s unfamiliar with the subject, nano-enabled packaging is actually far more common than you may think. As of 2013, the global nano-enabled packaging market was worth 6.5 billion dollars, and that rate is expected to more than double by 2020. What is nano-enabled packaging though? Nanotechnology “involves the uses of nanomaterials, which have external dimensions of less than 100 nanometres.” Basically, it’s work that is done on a very, very small scale. According to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies’ ‘Nanotechnology 101,’ “At the nanoscale, scientists can start affecting the properties of materials directly, making them harder or lighter or more durable. In some cases, simply making things smaller changes their properties-a chemical might take on a new color, or start to conduct electricity when re-fashioned at the nanoscale.”
You may have recently heard of this bit of nanotechnology floating around (I know I’ve certainly seen a few of my friends posting videos of it on social media). Scientists have recently created an incredibly hydrophobic metal–so hydrophobic, in fact, that droplets of water bounce right off its surface upon contact. To do this, tiny etchings were made into the surface of the metal at the nano scale, which helps to create air pockets and repel water and other substances. This technology could have many applications, including self-cleaning smart phone screens, water (and consequently ice repellant) cars and planes, and a way to prevent metal objects from rusting.
In the food packaging world, nanotechnology is generally used to prolong the lifespan of the product. With a growing customer base worldwide, “…food packaging requires longer shelf life, along with monitoring food safety and quality based upon international standards. To address these needs, nanotechnology is enabling new food and beverage packaging technologies.” Nanotechnology in packaging could take many forms, such as moisture absorbers, gas permeability, and antibacterial properties.
Some of the biggest names in nano-enabled packaging right now include Amcor, Bayer, Danaflex-Nano, Honeywell, and Tetra Pak International (the later of which you may recognize from their 100% renewable carton).