Monday, September 20, 2021

Indian scientists’ invention to increase shelf life of fruits

From developing ‘black gold’ in 2019, to developing sustainable process for making brick-like structures on the moon (2020), to having made world’s hardest self healing material recently, Indian scientists are on the helm of inventions.

And now they have come up with a composite paper made of carbon (graphene oxide) loaded with preservatives that can be used as wrappers that can help extend shelf life of fruits.

How is this Carbon-based Wrapper better than present technology?

In the present preservative dipping technology, the preservatives get adsorbed by the fruit. This causes chronic toxicity which can be harmful for consumers. On the other hand, the new carbon-based wrapper releases the preservative only when needed. The wrapper is also reusable, which is not the case with the present technology.

Harmful coating of preservatives

Since fruits are a type of items that are highly perishable, 50% of fruits produced are wasted, which causes huge losses to manufacturers. To protect the fruits from getting wasted, conventional preservation relies on coating the preservative with resin, wax, or edible polymer, and this may again cause severe health problems.

In order to address this problem, researchers from Institute of Nano Science and Technology, Mohali, Ministry of Science and Technology, began looking for an alternative, that could be generated from waste and can help to deal with the problem of adsorption of preservatives in fruits.

How does the Carbon-based wrapper work?

The activated graphene oxide-loaded molecules were first loaded with preservatives. When cast into a paper a wrapper, this high preservative-loaded graphene oxide ensures that the fruit is NOT loaded with toxic preservatives. But when the fruit over-ripens or gets infested by pathogens, only then, the oxalic acids trigger the release of the preservatives to preserve the fruit. Otherwise, the preservative stays with the carbon-based wrapper.

To develop this non-toxic and reusable wrapping paper, the team allowed carbon matrix to incubate with the preservative for around 24 hr in room temperature. The resultant was then washed thoroughly in order to remove the extra preservatives. Finally, this carbon-preservative composite was cast into paper then.

“Already waste-derived carbon materials are known to harbour huge amount of organic molecule loading, hence the preservative loaded carbon has been prepared and cast into paper for the fruit preservation. Increasing the capacity of carbon to hold organic molecules helped us to develop this product,” says Dr. P. S Vijayakumar, head researcher who led the team.

Who can benefit from the new Carbon-based wrapper

This technology can be beneficial for farmers and food industry as it massively increases shelf-life of fruits. Usage of this new carbon-based paper will also ensure that the customer gets quality products. The production of this graphene fruit wrapper requires only the carbon produced from the heating of biomass, hence it will also benefit in biomass consumption and employment generation.

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