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Glycerol-Based Dendrimer Nanocomposite Film as a Tunable pH-Sensor for Food Packaging

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journal contribution
posted on 06.05.2021, 20:30 by Karyn Pounds, Suguna Jairam, Hanxi Bao, Shanyu Meng, Lin Zhang, Scarlett (Arencibia) Godinez, Daniel A. Savin, William Pelletier, Melanie J. Correll, Zhaohui Tong
Large amounts of food are wasted during the food supply chain. This loss is in part due to consumer confusion over dates on food packages that can indicate a variety of quality indicators in the product (e.g., expiration date, “best by” date, “sell by” dates, etc.). To reduce this food loss, much research has been focused on the films that offer simple and easily manipulated indication systems to detect food spoilage. However, these materials are usually hydrophilic biopolymers that can detect the food spoilage in a wide pH range but do not provide highly sensitive real-time measurements. In this work, a glycerol-based nanocomposite core–shell latex film was synthesized to create a responsive packaging material that can provide real-time pH detection of food with high sensitivity. First, the pH-responsive dendrimer comonomer was synthesized from glycerol and diamine. Then, the nanoencapsulation polymerization process via miniemulsion was conducted to form a core–shell structure with tunable nanoshell thickness for a sensible pH-responsive release (<0.5 pH change). Next, the flexible film encapsulated a color-indicative dye that provided highly sensitive and visible color changes as both the pH dropped and the time elapsed in the food. This film also provided a barrier to water and heat and resisted deformation. Ultimately, this nanocomposite flexible film pending a pH sensor has the potential as an intelligent food packaging material for a universal, accurate, easy-to-use, and real-time food spoilage monitoring system to reduce food waste.

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