Dr. Karnail B. Singh, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering received Early Career Research Award (Individual centric) from Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India. He has been awarded the grant of ₹ 42.16 Lakhs for a duration of three years (2017- 2020) for a research project entitled: “Understanding the Mechanism of Film Formation in Bio-Polymers Based Edible Films and Coatings for Food Packaging Applications”.
SUMMARY OF THE PROJECT:
The global food packaging market is expected to grow to US $ 306 billion by 2019 with major requirement coming from Asia-Pacific. Indian market is expected to grow at even higher rate of 8% for the next 5 years. Hence the demand for food packaging material is going to increase further in the coming future. However, the current packaging material, the synthetic plastics from petroleum sources is causing a serious threat to the environment due to its nondegradability. Hence, serious environmental concerns along with consumer’s awareness towards sustainable products is driving the research towards bio-degradable packaging materials. This has led to significant research efforts towards Edible Coatings and Films which are made from bio-polymers derived from agricultural, animal and marine sources.
In the current project, the fundamental understanding of the film formation process in Edible Coatings and Films will be developed. Although edible coatings from different bio-polymers such as polysaccharides, proteins, lipids, etc. have been synthesized, no one has looked at the problem as a general, fundamental problem of film formation in aqueous hydrocolloidal systems. Further, any minor defect such as a pinhole or a crack in the final coating or the films can completely destroy its efficacy. All the expected features such as barrier properties, mechanical strength etc. are completely lost due to even a very minor defect. Hence, there is a need to understand how a uniform film devoid of any defect is formed in such systems. We would study the edible bio-polymers of different types and origin and understand their film formation mechanism. More specifically, the effect of process conditions such as temperature, relative humidity; properties of the constituent bio-polymers such as their Tg and particles size distribution; properties of the substrate such as softness, roughness, wetting characteristics etc. will be studied. The principal investigator had proposed a theory of film formation in latex dispersion (Singh and Tirumkudulu, 2007) showing how the crack free films can be obtained in hard particles systems. The same knowledge can be extended to film formation in Edible Coatings derived from bio-polymers; which although similar, have many differences such as low Tg bio-polymers (relatively soft); mixtures of different ingredient such as plasticizers, active ingredients for taste, etc. Further, depending on the Indian conditions (of raw material availability etc.), appropriate bio-polymers will be synthesized and tested for Edible Films. All these efforts will ultimately help in designing efficient edible coatings and films for food packaging and pharmaceutical applications.