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Packaging that acts and reacts

Imagine a packaging material that recognises its surroundings and communicates with its environment. Experts in the field of bio-based electronics are currently investigating just that possibility.

“We are studying the possibilities that integrating active materials into paper open up. This involves the discussion of both how to apply the active material in the paper manufacturing process, and future applications,” says Karl Håkansson.

Karl is leading and conducting research aimed at understanding areas of electronics in which bio-based materials might outperform their non-biological counterparts. Today’s nanotechnology has opened doors to functionalise materials and customise properties down to the most minute component parts.

In future, this may make it possible to functionalise not only packaging but even wallpaper, textiles or even more exotic applications – why not space robots.

Demonstrators of bio-based electronics

Even if research is still at an early stage, it is apparent that, with the aid of a little fantasy, we can come up with any number of applications that would make life a little easier, and perhaps more fun. Not for the first time, materials researchers have enlisted the aid of designers to visualise possible uses for active materials. On this occasion, Frida Roth from Nackademin, under the supervision of Karin Edström, created two demonstrators that were exhibited during Scanpack 2018.

The first demonstration will be an active paper collar for take-away coffee cups.

“Imagine being able to maintain your coffee at the perfect temperature for as long as you like, for example by connecting the collar on your cup to a USB port in your car or computer,” says Karin.

The second demonstrator is more hush-hush. This is an electromagnetically screened telephone case that prevents connection with the device as long as it remains inside. Something that may be desirable to prevent external manipulation of the device during transportation, or to eliminate the risk of eavesdropping in sensitive situations.

Signal blocking packaging
Electromagnetic screening prevents connection with the mobile device as long as it remains inside the packaging.

Pharmaceutical packet equipped with certificate of authenticity

Safety truly is the theme of the third demonstration; a seemingly conventional pharmaceutical packet equipped with functions to prevent opening without obvious signs of manipulation. Something that can act as a certificate of authenticity.

“Of course, bio-based materials have intrinsic value in that they can contribute to a fossil-free society; however, by adding functionality such as electronics in paper, they can not only replace but even surpass traditional fossil-based materials,” claim Karin and Karl.

Technically advanced materials can be bio-based

Project manager Maria Sundin very much backs up RISE’s view when it comes to demonstrators. She takes a very positive view of current opportunities for demonstrating that technically advanced materials can be bio-based.

“Hopefully, this will lead to more research in the field, and to more product developers taking the leap to use bio-based materials, even in applications where raw materials currently come from other sources.”

Published: 2018-10-04
Sandra Pousette

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Sandra Pousette


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