How Graphene is Impacting the Art World

How Graphene is Impacting the Art World

We already know that graphene, a one-atom-thick layer of carbon discovered in 2004, can be used as a conductor, insulator and filter – that it can even be used to create ultra-light, ultra-thick body armor, as well as wearable electronics.

What has recently come to light, however, is that graphene can also impact the art world, whether it is fashioned into art itself or used as a means to preserve existing works.

A September 2021 study published in the scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology concluded that graphene, when placed in what has been described as “an invisible veil” over certain paintings, will prevent fading by as much as 70 percent. That’s because graphene blocks ultraviolet rays and is impermeable to oxygen, moisture and other agents that might corrode any given piece of art.

Costas Galiotis, a chemical engineering professor at University of Patras in Greece and a member of the executive board of the European Union’s Graphene Flagship research initiative, was part of the team that performed the study. He called this technique “the perfect solution to protect colors from photodegradation” in an interview with the website ARS Technica and added:

“The innovation of our approach is based on the fact that graphene adheres to any clean surfaces, but it can easily be removed, in contrast to current commercial polymeric coatings. Thus, it exhibits a competitive advantage over other protective materials and substances for the protection of artworks from color fading.”

Narayan Khandekar, director of the Straus Center for Consolation and Technical Studies at the Harvard Art Museums, pointed out to the website Chemistryworld.com that in order to limit fading artworks have traditionally been stored in darkness and then displayed for a limited time under low-energy lights. He called this new development “really compelling” and a method that “has a lot of potential.”

Galiotis and his team settled on the technique after closely examining the discoloration of some of Vincent van Gogh’s works. First tested on the paintings of an artist named Matina Stavropoulou, it involves attaching the graphene veil with the aid of polyester/silicone adhesive. It can easily be removed, the team asserts, without damaging the painting.

The team cautioned that this veil works best on smooth surfaces, and expressed concerns about warping and/or certain corrosive compounds becoming trapped beneath the graphene layer. But overall, this appears to be a breakthrough.

No less interesting was the development by a group of Rice University scientists of artwork through the use of laser-induced graphene in 2019. One of them, Joseph Cohen, told the website Phys.org that the goal in creating his rendering – of a landscape – was to “not make it kitsch or play off the novelty, but to have it have some true functionality that allows greater awareness about the material and opens up the experience.”

One year earlier artist Mary Griffiths collaborated with Nobel laureate Sir Kostya Novoselov on a microscopic graphene-based version of one of her works.

As with most art, the goal is to make a lasting impression. The new graphene-based technique pioneered by Galiotis and Co., meanwhile, is designed to ensure that that will be the case.

The Ferroelectrical Qualities of Graphene, and What They Mean for the Future of Electronics

The Ferroelectrical Qualities of Graphene, and What They Mean for the Future of Electronics

It has long been known that graphene can serve as a superconductor or insulator. But in February 2021, MIT researchers discovered that this material, an atom-thick layer of carbon arranged in a hexagonal pattern, is even more versatile than anyone might have imagined: It also exhibits ferroelectrical qualities. In other words, it spontaneously polarizes.

That discovery “may pave the way for an entire generation of new ferroelectrics materials,” as Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, the MIT physics professor who led the study, put it in a post on the university’s website.

Specifically, the post noted the implications for neuromorphic computing, a type of computing that approximates the workings of the human brain and nervous system. As noted on the site HPE.com, it does so by creating something known as spiking neural networks, “where spikes from individual electronic neurons activate other neurons down a cascading chain.”

And that, the post added, is not unlike the manner in which signals are exchanged between the brain and neurons in various parts of the body. 

There is some expectation that this technology will come into vogue in the very near future, as legacy systems grow outdated and a need arises in certain specific technological areas — that it will not necessarily displace traditional computing so much as augment it. Emre Neftci, assistant professor in cognitive sciences at the University of California, Irvine, and head of the university’s Neuromorphic Machine Intelligence Lab, cited for HPE the example of artificial intelligence at the edge. Other use cases will certainly arise, as evidenced by the fact that Emergen Research projects that by 2027, the neuromorphic processing market will balloon to $11.29 billion.

Certainly MIT’s discovery about graphene represents another significant step in that direction. The breakthrough about ferroelectricity, which to date has been notably used in such things as medical ultrasounds and Radio Frequency ID (RFID) cards, was the result of Jarillo-Herrero and his team sandwiching two layers of graphene between layers of boron nitride.

While opposite charges are normally attracted to one another in most materials, that was not the case in this study, which built upon work done by the same team in 2018. In fact, the result was a form of ferroelectricity that differs from that which had previously been seen.

Harvard physics professor Philip Kim, who was not involved in this research, called this development “fascinating” in the piece on the MIT site and added:

“This work is the first demonstration that reports pure electronic ferroelectricity, which exhibits charge polarization without ionic motion in the underlying lattice. This surprising discovery will surely invite further studies that can reveal more exciting emergent phenomena and provide an opportunity to utilize them for ultrafast memory applications.” 

In other words, we are just scratching the surface of everything graphene can do, which stands to reason — it was only discovered in 2004. As exciting as this development is, more certainly lies ahead.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Converting Tires Into Concrete-Reinforcing Graphene

Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Converting Tires Into Concrete-Reinforcing Graphene

Concrete and discarded rubber tires represent two of the world’s greatest environmental hazards. Is it possible that a discovery by a team of Rice University scientists earlier this year could help curtail the impact of both?

Using the same “flash” process that the team first introduced in 2020 — i.e., giving old tires a jolt of electricity that left only carbon atoms behind — the researchers were left with turbostratic graphene, once the atoms reassembled. The solubility of this material enabled it to be incorporated into cement to produce concrete that is more environmentally friendly than its current incarnation. (Nearly all U.S. roads are comprised of asphalt concrete, a mixture of rocky aggregates and a petroleum-based binder.)

According to one estimate, the world produces 4.4 billion tons of concrete annually, though other estimates put that number as high as 10 billion. Either way, no other man-made material is used as much, and among earthly substances of all kinds its consumption is exceeded only by that of water.

That comes with a heavy environmental price, as concrete accounts for four to eight percent of global carbon dioxide emissions and soaks up 10 percent of the industrial water that is used, most of it in countries that can ill afford such profligacy. Small wonder that the headline atop a 2019 piece on The Guardian’s website described concrete as “the most destructive material on earth.”

The development by the Rice team could at least begin to address that.

“If we can use less concrete in our roads, buildings and bridges, we can eliminate some of the emissions at the very start,” one team member, chemist James Tour, told Science Daily.

The added benefit that would result from widespread implementation of this technique would be whittling away at the mountain of used tires that are a pox on the world’s landscape. Some 1 billion tires are discarded every year, and only 10 percent are recycled. 

According to a post on the Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Daily Advisor, the recycling rate in the U.S., where some 300 million tires are discarded annually, is much higher — 76 percent in 2019, down from 96 percent six years earlier. A post on the site Intelligent Living takes issue with those calculations, pointing out that they include tires that are shredded and used as tire-derived fuel (TDF), which creates environmental problems of its own.

What can be agreed upon is that tires constitute a sizable issue, whether the chemicals that comprise them is leaching into the environment or they’re taking up an outsized amount of space in landfills (and even bubbling up to the surface when buried, because of the gasses that they trap). There’s also the potential danger of fires, and the way in which tires trap water, making them a breeding ground for mosquitoes

Other recycling methods have been developed beyond creating TDF, including the creation of rubber mulch for use on playgrounds and the like, and extracting the steel, nylon and fiber and repurposing it. But the development by the team at Rice represents another promising step forward, one that can potentially combat two environmental menaces at once.

Can Graphene Supercharge the Internet?

Can Graphene Supercharge the Internet?

Faster — it’s the buzzword of the century. We want it all and we want it faster. Unfortunately, faster is impossible in some cases. We’ll never be able to control how quickly a waitress brings our coffee or how long it takes our children to clean their rooms. We can, however, control the internet and recent research says that yes, we can make it faster — with graphene. 

Currently, we transmit data from the internet using fiber optic cables and electro-optic switches. The data is converted to light at one end, travels at the speed of light through a fiber optic cable, and is interpreted and transmitted at the other end. Fiber optic switches control where the data goes by “switching” electronic circuits on and off. At present, these switches can do their job in a few picoseconds. That’s one trillionth of a second which is impressive, but not as fast as graphene.

While there are new developments still to come, graphene’s breakneck speed is expected to have widespread implications when 5G becomes commonplace. As 2D materials scientist Dr. Nicky Savjani said, “The science of graphene is still in its infancy; we are still learning so much about its fundamental properties.” She did add, however, that new insights are coming at “staggering rates.”

 Scientists have long suspected that incorporating graphene into fiber optic pathways could significantly speed up the internet. The pure carbon substance frequently referred to as the “miracle material” is extremely strong, amazingly thin, and both thermally and electrically conductive. It wasn’t until 2013, however, that researchers at the Universities of Bath and Exeter found a way to prove just how much graphene could speed up optical response rates.

Normal optic switches work by moving their electrons from low to high energy states and back again through what’s known as an energy gap. The response time we measure — meaning the one that has a direct effect on your internet speed — is the length of time it takes for the electron to return to its low energy state. This timeframe is commonly referred to as recombination time. Because graphene conducts energy but doesn’t possess the standard energy gap, it was difficult to accurately identify a recombination time.

The university researchers chose instead to study graphene’s electron behavior in the infrared spectrum as it transitioned between states. What they found was astonishing. An optical switch that used just a few layers of (stacked) graphene responded in a mere one hundred femtoseconds. That’s almost 100 times faster than the fiber optic switches discussed above.  Faster electro-optic switches translate to a faster internet experience.

Subsequent discoveries suggest that graphene computers could be 1,000 times faster, though they remain in the theoretical stage.

Graphene is man-made entirely out of carbon which can be found everywhere. Its abundance means we’re unlikely to run out, so graphene should remain relatively inexpensive despite its increasing popularity across various industries. And, because the material works in conjunction with and not in lieu of fiber optic cables, there’s no need to completely replace current telecommunication systems to achieve upgraded internet response times. Manufacturers would only need to update the switches located at the end of the cables.

Researchers are consistently coming up with new and innovative ways to incorporate graphene into our daily lives. In fact, there were approximately 30,000 graphene-related patent filings between 2004 and 2017. Perhaps a faster internet is only the first in a series of telecommunication upgrades catalyzed by the miracle material. 

Are Graphene Composites the Key to Wider Application?

Are Graphene Composites the Key to Wider Application?

It is a well-established fact that there is far more to graphene than meets the eye. It is just a one-atom-thick layer of graphite, meaning it is one million times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. Yet it is the strongest man-made material ever made — 200 times stronger than steel, in fact. It also conducts electricity 13 times better than copper and conducts heat at enhanced levels as well. And finally, it is lightweight, flexible and corrosion-proof.

That means it has implications in a wide variety of fields, including electronics, robotics and even the medical sector. Beyond that, there is graphene’s potential when used as part of a composite material, usually with resins or polymers (and often in the tiniest of amounts). Given all the factors just mentioned, that has wide-ranging implications as well, particularly for the transportation industry.

Certainly researchers are just scratching the surface with graphene, as it was only discovered in 2004. There are miles to go. There is much to be discovered. But for now, it is interesting to note that one of the first companies to make headway with this material was in fact HEAD, a sporting-goods company known for its tennis rackets.

In 2013 it produced a graphene-based racket that was 30 percent stronger and 20 percent lighter than its predecessors, then developed lightweight, flexible skis using the same substance. Also notable was the development of graphene-based golfballs by Callaway.

Philip Rose, CEO of the Michigan-based graphene nanoplatelets manufacturer XG Sciences, told the website Compositesworld.com that the impact of innovation in the sporting-goods industry, given its high profile, “can become quite broad” across other sectors.

Rose’s company, for instance, partnered with Ford Motor Company to develop components in the F-150 Truck and Mustang that included graphene-laced polyurethane foam. It was found that that resulted in a 17 percent noise reduction, a 20 percent improvement in mechanical properties and a 30 percent improvement in heat endurance.

Fiat and Lamborghini have also used parts involving graphene composites, as has the Briggs Automotive Company, which makes single-seat, street-legal sports cars.

The aviation industry has also delved into graphene composites, notably using them in the construction of planes’ wing and tail sections. The Graphene Flagship, a 10-year, $1 billion research program launched in January 2013 by the European Union, has partnered with Airbus to develop graphene-based de-icing systems for aircraft, and the industry-wide hope is that composites involving that substance can go a long way toward making planes lighter, more fuel-efficient and more environmentally friendly — no small consideration, considering the transportation industry gobbles up 33 percent of the world’s energy and in the U.S. alone contributes 28 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions.

The bottom line is that graphene — amazing as it is on its own — is capable of contributing even more when used in combination with other materials. We are only beginning to see its possibilities, as this is an ongoing process, with other developments undoubtedly just over the horizon.

What Magnetic Graphene Might Mean for the Future

What Magnetic Graphene Might Mean for the Future

Scientists have figured out a way to magnetize graphene, which could make possible lightning-fast microcomputers and electronics that defy the imagination. But as with graphene itself, the full potential of the magnetized version of this substance — an atom-thick layer of graphite — has yet to be realized.

Certainly, though, this represents another step forward for graphene, which was discovered only in 2002 by Andre Geim, a physics professor at the University of Manchester, in the United Kingdom. Some 12 years later, a New Yorker headline breathlessly raised the possibility that graphene “may be the most remarkable substance ever discovered,” and other observers were no less thrilled. A 2015 ExtremeTech piece posited the idea that graphene “could change the course of human civilization.”

So far, graphene has already shown extraordinary promise in the semiconductor industry. (That New Yorker piece also mentioned specific uses, as on ice-resistant helicopter blades, scaffolding for those suffering spinal-cord injuries and inflatable rafts and slides used in airplanes.) 

Magnetizing graphene takes things to the next level, but it is not easy to do. Before 2019, that could only be accomplished by adding magnetic coatings or compounds. But Swiss and German researchers teamed up last year to solve this riddle, constructing a nanostructure made of graphene and then manipulating the spin of the electrons in such a way that they produce a magnetic field.

This new field — spin transport electronics, or spintronics — is defined as the manipulation of electrons’ spin to achieve a certain end. For example, it can be altered to provide for data storage or transfer. 

Spintronics are superior to conventional electronics in that they don’t rely on electric current to sustain their spin and are reliable in environments with high temperatures or high radiation. The spin of an electron is identified as discernable magnetic energy even though atoms are capable of spinning up/clockwise and down/anti-clockwise. In theory, spintronics would operate as a hybrid by using both the electron’s spin and charge.

There is an ever-increasing need for data storage, as the amount of data available around the world, estimated to be 33 zettabytes in 2018, is expected to increase to 175 zettabytes by 2025. Much of that will be stored in the cloud, but there will also be a need for smaller and smaller transistors. Those made from silicon have steadily shrunk, from 14 nanometers to 10 and most recently to five, but there is a limit to how small they can get. Magnetized graphene offers the possibility of them getting even smaller. That has obvious implications for hard drives, smartphones and other devices.

In addition, devices using spintronics are more energy-efficient, which would at least in theory reduce the footprint of the world’s data centers. At present they consume about three percent of the global energy supply, and by 2030 could soak up as much as 10 percent.

It is also expected that spintronics will impact robotics. Specifically, it will allow for the production of nanorobots, which, when introduced into a human body, will enable healthcare professionals to more precisely diagnose a patient’s condition. 

Finally, there are those who believe that spintronics can hasten the development of quantum computers, which, while capable of solving complex problems, need very precise conditions in which to operate — i.e., low temperatures, a vacuum, etc. Researchers have discovered that manipulating electrons’ spin can allow for such computations, though this technology has yet to be perfected.

It is clear that magnetic graphene holds great potential in any number of areas — that it might yet live up to its hype by impacting not only the technology sector but others as well. There are miles to go before a final determination can be made, of course, but the advances to date have shown promise, and there is no doubt more to come.

An Energizing Combination: Graphene and Perovskite-Silicon Solar Cells

An Energizing Combination: Graphene and Perovskite-Silicon Solar Cells

As the world’s dependence on sustainable energy grows, so too does the need for efficient, cost-effective solar cells.

About 1.8 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. in 2019 was from solar power, and that is only expected to increase. In fact, solar is projected to grow faster than any other energy source between now and 2050. Hence the emphasis on efficiency, and in recent months, researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) combined two powerful materials — graphene and perovskite-silicon — to improve it by up to 20 percent.

Until now, standard solar cells — composed of pure silicon or a perovskite-silicon combination — had a maximum efficiency of 32 percent. Cost was also an issue, as even the best of the lot had high fees for operation and maintenance, leading scientists to seek viable alternatives.

Enter graphene, which was only discovered in 2004 when researchers peeled tape off a chunk of graphite and examined the atom-thick layer left behind. Since then, graphene has forever changed the production of electric circuits, medical devices and anti-corrosive paint.

Strong and lightweight, graphene is both more flexible and cost-effective than traditional solutions. Perovskite, meanwhile, is a calcium titanium oxide that, when exposed to sunlight, absorbs photons and generates electrical current.

To develop hybrid solar cells, researchers deposited thin-film graphene flakes to the perovskite-based solar cells, which immediately boosted the photovoltaic performance of the cells without altering their absorption of the sun’s rays.

The result? Higher chemical stability and significant cost reduction.

The recent inclusion of graphene has reduced the reflectance of solar rays by 20 percent, leading to the equivalent increase in efficiency.

It is important to note that while pure silicon is adequate for converting sunlight into electricity, it is a poor conductor. That’s why it’s often paired with perovskite to capture sunlight more readily.

In standard perovskite-silicon solar cells, the perovskite top cell is stacked over a silicon base and then pressurized. Used in tandem, the cells reach a power conversion efficiency of 26.3 percent over a small area.

Though the combination achieves relatively high efficiency at a lower cost, perovskite-silicon is considered relatively unstable and difficult to scale. 

Though it’s an emergent technology, hybrid graphene and perovskite-silicon cells are poised to completely disrupt the solar energy market. Experts state that it’s just a matter of time before the use of hybrid solar technology enables the commercialization of cost-effective, large-area solar panels.

Researchers noted improvement in virtually all facets of solar cell tech with the inclusion of graphene, improving charge collection, energy generation, and energy transport.

Best of all, the new combination is set to reduce the manufacturing costs of solar cells. The new solar cell serves as the foundation of the European Commission-funded Graphene Flagship Project (GRAPES), which seeks to surpass the infamous 30 percent solar conversion mark while keeping production costs minimized.

After three years of intensive research, the world’s first graphene-based solar farm is being set up in alignment with UN goals for sustainable development in 2020. Keep your eye out for more reliable, effective, and cost-minimized solar panels as they hit the market.

A New Biomaterial for Medical 3D Printing

A New Biomaterial for Medical 3D Printing

Graphene oxide is a substance known for its flexibility. It’s true in a literal sense, as when it is used in solar cells or electronics, and true in the sense that it is extremely versatile.

In fact, graphene oxide — i.e., an oxidized form of graphene — can be found in such divergent items as lithium batteries, sensors and membranes. And in March 2020, an international team of scientists discovered that when that substance was 3D-printed in combination with a certain protein, it could form what were described as “tissue-like vascular structures.” 

This represents the latest advance in the development of artificial blood vessels, which in time could be used to treat everything from cardiovascular disease to gunshot wounds.

The study, headed by Professor Alvaro Mata at the University of Nottingham/Queen Mary University London, concluded that the graphene oxide and protein went through a process of self-assembly, defined as the process through which various components interact to form new, functional structures. More specifically, the graphene oxide provides the framework for what Mata described in a news released as “micro-scale capillary-like fluidic structures that are compatible with cells, exhibit physiologically relevant properties, and have the capacity to withstand flow.”

Dr. Yuanhao Wu, the project’s lead researcher, noted in that same release that self-assembly on a molecular level had until now been “limited” despite the scientific community’s best efforts. This breakthrough, she added, represents a technique that “can be easily integrated with additive manufacturing to easily fabricate biofluidic devices that allow us (to) replicate key parts of human tissues and organs in the lab.”

That could have particular implications for patients undergoing bypass surgery as a result of cardiovascular disease, which according to the World Health Organization is the number one cause of death around the globe.

Research in the area of artificial blood vessels has, as a result, taken on added weight, and dates back to 1986, when scientists attempted to make them from bovine aortic cells. Particularly promising were two discoveries in 2017 — one in China, and one in the United States, at the University of California San Diego — through the use of 3D printers.

The Chinese researchers combined stem cells and nutrients to construct a graft that was used to replace a portion of an artery in the abdomens of 30 rhesus monkeys, while the U.S. scientists created a graft — subsequently used in mice — out of vascular cells that were converted into hydrogels.

Then, in 2019, researchers from Yale University and a Durham, N.C.-based medical technology firm called Humacyte used arterial cells from cadavers to create a collagen/protein structure known as a cellular matrix — i.e., the scaffolding that gives blood vessels their shape. They were then implanted in the arms of patients suffering from kidney disease, and over time came to be populated by the patients’ own cells.

The discovery in March of this year represents the next step in the creation of artificial blood vessels, and may someday prove to be a giant leap forward. Given the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, it is impossible to overstate the importance of such work, and what it might mean in the future.

How Graphene Could Replace Mercury in Lighting

How Graphene Could Replace Mercury in Lighting

Over the past 20 years, there has been a strong push to develop more efficient solutions for artificial lighting. Incandescent bulbs were the dominant technology for over 100 years, but by the 2000s, environmentalists concerned with the limited energy efficiency and waste generated by incandescent bulbs started promoting longer-lasting CFL bulbs, as well as LED lights. Lasting years longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, CFL and LED lighting generate much less waste over the same amount of time.

But there remains one major concern: They contain mercury, which poses a potentially significant health hazard if the bulbs are not safely discarded.

Enter graphene. A company based in Manchester, England, called Graphene Lighting first produced lightbulbs featuring LED filaments coated in graphene in 2015. The bulbs, which contain no mercury, are 10 percent more energy-efficient than LED lights, owing to graphene’s superior conductivity. Besides obviously being more environmentally friendly than their predecessors, the bulbs are also more durable, lasting 25,000 hours, and are more cost-effective.

Graphene was first developed by two Russian scientists, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, at the University of Manchester in 2004. The school’s deputy vice chancellor, Professor Colin Bailey, is one of the directors of Graphene Lighting, which was founded in 2014. The Canadian-financed company added a second plant, in Shenzhen, China, five years later.

That same year brought another graphene-related lighting development, as researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology created ultraviolet light on a graphene surface for the first time. One of the researchers, Ida Marie Hoiaas, told Phys.org that such a product “could turn out to be cheaper and more stable and durable than today’s fluorescent lamps.”

“If we succeed in making the diodes efficient and much cheaper,” Hoiaas told Phys.org, “it’s easy to imagine this equipment becoming commonplace in people’s homes. That would increase the market potential considerably.”

According to that same outlet, the process began in a Japanese laboratory, where a layer of graphene was placed on glass. Through a process known as molecular beam epitaxy, nanowires composed of aluminum gallium nitride were grown on the graphene substrate, and the sample was shipped off to the researchers in Norway. 

They constructed gold and nickel contacts on the graphene and nanowires. The graphene then served as the conductor when power was sent to the nanowires, which emitted the ultraviolet light. Graphene is transparent to all light, regardless of wavelength, so that which was produced in this case shone through the graphene, as well as the glass.

Not only is graphene a more cost-effective alternative to LEDs and CFL bulbs, it is also non-toxic, since it does not use mercury. Use of that element in fluorescent lighting has come under criticism from various organizations, including the UN, leaving industries scrambling to find new alternatives in order to meet new health and safety regulations.

Graphene’s potential, evident in so many other areas, has, shall we say, been brought to light once again. The use of this nanomaterial makes for lighting options that are cheaper, safer and more efficient than those that came before, and very well might serve as a beacon to the future.

 

How Nanomaterials Are Extending Food Shelf Life

How Nanomaterials Are Extending Food Shelf Life

Most of us can identify with the feeling of purchasing food at the grocery store and forgetting to eat it until it was too late. Unfortunately, forgetting food leads to an enormous amount of food waste, creating higher costs for companies, consumers and the environment. 

This issue could now be alleviated, thanks to a company named NanoPack. This company is experimenting with food-safe film that will extend the shelf life of foods through the use of nanomaterials, leading to higher convenience and savings for the consumer and producers alike.

In tests, NanoPack found that their film could extend the shelf life of bread for three weeks. It also showed that the lives of cherries and yellow cheese could be extended by up to 40 percent. This additional time on shelf could offer huge savings to consumers who may not anticipate life events getting in the way of their cooking. It benefits single individuals who may not be able to consume large quantities of food before it spoils. Extending a food’s shelf life also reduces the waste that companies must produce in order to get the food on the shelves in the first place. 

NanoPack’s innovative food film works by using both antimicrobial nanomaterials and essential oils. The combination of these two elements aids in slowing the development of bacteria on food which leads to rotting and decay. The essential oils used are developed from oregano and thyme, making it safe for consumption. This is important, as leery consumers may not be excited about consuming experimental food preservation materials. NanoPack ensures that all of their films are safe for all.

While the film has shown initial promise extending the shelf life of bread, cheese, and cherries, NanoPack has high hopes that their film will prove efficacious on many other foods too. Such an advance across the industry might decrease the need for our reliance on preservatives. And while preservatives hold an important place in food production today, their removal would mean fewer problems for the more sensitive and allergenic among us. 

NanoPack says that it will take at least another year or two to fully develop its shelf-life-increasing film. However, they are already testing it on other foods, and the product shows quite great promise for consumers and producers alike.