Packaging grown to function: New barrier materials inspired by nature
Highly sophisticated “packages” exist in nature to protect and regulate a variety of internal environments that have different barrier needs. Examples include fruit and vegetable peels, the papery husks that encase gooseberries, our skin, and more fundamentally, the cell membranes that envelope the basic units of all living things. These natural barriers are composed of different elements – polysaccharides, protein, lipids, waxes, aromas, chromophores, etc. – that are functionally assembled and optimized through millennia of evolution for diverse functionality, including mass transport, temperature regulation, light management (harvesting, blocking, color effects), structural properties, pest control, and scent. Recreating this level of sophistication in the laboratory or assembly line is not a simple task but we can take inspiration from natural systems to create new materials using the bottom-up self-assembly of key components into bio-based macrostructures that begin to meet the demands of modern packaging. In this public talk, two emerging forest-based materials, mycelium and nanocellulose, will be discussed in the context of naturally grown materials with promising properties and the potential to impact how we envision, produce, use, and dispose of packaging.
Bio: Tiffany Abitbol is a research scientist at RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, Sweden’s foremost research and innovation partner. Tiffany obtained her PhD in Chemistry in 2011 from McGill University and has post-doctoral experience from McMaster University in the Chemical Engineering department (2012-2014) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the Plant Sciences department (2014-2016). Supported by a Marie-Curie fellowship, Tiffany moved to Stockholm in 2017 to pursue a nanocellulose-themed research program at RISE in collaboration with academic and industrial partners. Tiffany is motivated toward the development of healthy and sustainable solutions to address new opportunities in the field of materials using a cross-disciplinary and collaborative approach.