Nanotechnology to help improve quality of paper, packaging materials

February 18th, 2009 - 2:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 18 (IANS) Researchers are taking the help of nanotechnology to improve paper and packaging materials at low cost.
Their finding, which involves the addition of a simple step to the paper making process, makes possible the development of new magnetic, electrically conducive or optically active specialist paper products.

Doctoral student Aaron Small and supervisor Jim Johnston, professor at Victoria University, investigated cost-effective methods of printing or coating nanoparticles onto paper and packaging materials. Nanoparticles are tiny particles 10,000 times thinner than the average human hair.

While nanoparticles are already used to coat materials such as fabric or clay particles, this is the first time the technology has been used with a New Zealand-grown and produced material such as ‘kraft board fibres’ (Pinus radiata), which are exported as newsprint grade paper internationally.

“We know how to print nanoparticles that glow under ultra violet light but are invisible under normal light. They could be used for security labelling to protect against counterfeiting. You could also have a label that might be blue within the use-by-date and when it’s expired it would turn red,” Small said.

The results could also provide a cheaper alternative to some metals, such as copper. Copper is commonly used to shield equipment sensitive to electromagnetic radiation such as cellular and wireless network frequencies.

For example, New Zealand exports more than $600 million of paper products a year and new markets in higher value printing and packaging papers are expected to emerge within 10 years, said a Victoria release.

These findings were published in Current Applied Physics and the Journal of Colloid and Interface Science.

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