A file photo of Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. (PTI photo)

IIT Kharagpur researchers develop eco-friendly food packaging material with cucumber peels – education

Are you discarding the cucumber peels after preparing your salad? They may soon find their way back to your kitchen in the form of eco-friendly food packaging developed by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kharagpur.

According to the team of researchers, cucumber peels have a higher cellulose content than other peel residues. The cellulose nanocrystals derived from these shells can be used to make food packaging material that is biodegradable and has low oxygen permeability.

“While consumers consciously avoid single-use plastic, it still largely remains in circulation as food packaging items. Natural biopolymers cannot make their way into this industry because they lack strength, elongation, barrier properties, optical properties, and in some cases even biological safety, ”said Jayeeta Mitra, Assistant Professor, IIT Kharagpur.

“In India, cucumber is widely used in salads, pickles, cooked vegetables or (even) eaten raw and also in the beverage industry, generating a large volume of bio-based peel waste that is rich in content. of cellulose.

“Cucumbers generate about 12 percent of the residual waste obtained after processing the peels or whole slices as waste. We have used celluloses, hemicellulose, and pectin extracted from this processed material to derive new biomaterials that are useful as nano-fillers in biocomposites ”, he added.

Speaking of the research findings, Mitra said: “Our study shows that cellulose nanocrystals derived from cucumber peels possess modifiable properties due to the presence of abundant hydroxyl groups, resulting in better biodegradability and biocompatibility.” “These nanocellulose materials emerged as the strong, renewable and inexpensive material of the near future due to unique properties such as a high surface-to-volume ratio, light weight and excellent mechanical properties. Thus, these nanocrystals, when reinforced as nanofillers in biocomposite films, can produce effective food packaging materials with low oxygen permeabilities, “he said.

The study revealed that cucumber peels have a higher cellulose content (18.22 pc) than other peel residues. It also provided a better understanding of the crystalline, thermal, and colloidal properties of cucumber cellulose.

“This non-toxic, biodegradable and biocompatible product has no adverse effects on health and the environment and therefore could have enormous market potential by making the management of high cellulose organic waste profitable,” said Sai Prasanna, academic researcher at the institute.

In addition to the food and beverage packaging industries, researchers are optimistic about their scope in various fields such as sustainable and thermo-reversible hydrogel manufacturing, papermaking, coating additives, biocomposites, optically clear films, and as emulsion stabilizers. of oil and water. .

“Furthermore, CNCs find good potential applications in biopharmaceutical applications such as drug delivery and fabrication of temporary implants such as sutures, stents, etc.,” said Prasanna.


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