MeadWestvaco (MWV) has partnered with a US university to support the development of a new material to improve resealable product packaging.
The firm has joined with the University of Virginia to back the work of Louis A. Bloomfield, professor and associate chair of the Physics Department in the College of Arts & Sciences, for the enhancement of a material he has developed which has the potential to transform packaging adhesives.
The material, described as an advanced silicone rubber, is currently at laboratory stage but plans are in place to make it commercial.
Some characteristics of Viscoelastic silicone rubber include it being stiff and resilient if struck fast and soft and compliant if pushed on slowly, with it always returning to its original shape when it is left alone, according to Bloomfield.
A MWV spokeswoman told FoodProductionDaily.com that: “at this point, we are in the very early stages of this partnership” and that they were unable to provide detailed information on when the product may be available or the key end markets.
Aimed at a variety of markets it could give companies a competitive edge, according to MWV.
The company is sponsoring a three-month research effort in Bloomfield’s lab and has entered into a one-year agreement with the University of Virginia’s Licensing & Ventures Group.
MWV said its research found reclosing packages was one of the top issues for consumers’ which was why they are exploring the commercial potential of the packaging reclosure.
MWV opened a $13m R&D plant earlier this year and said that open innovation is an important part of their strategy to generate packaging solutions through their own and outside contributions.
Bloomfield describes the material as the “molecular equivalent of Velcro.”
The material’s unusual molecular structure allows it to behave differently in the long and short terms so it can maintain a permanent shape, such as an adhesive strip along the inside of a product container or change shape temporarily, like it might to create a tight seal.
Bloomfield said sheets of the material bind together on contact but separate easily when you pull them apart.
“Moreover, those sheets cling only to one another and barely adhere to anything else. Finger prints, dust and dirt just brush or rinse away.
“Our goal through the end of the year is to make working prototypes of the packaging closures, optimize some of the formulations and application schemes, and solve many of the technical challenges we’ll encounter as we work to move this idea out of the laboratory and into commercial use.”